COLLABORATION

UK govt turning to uni-industry collaboration to plug the AI skills gap

SOURCE: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock
UK government is investing in the next generation of AI experts.

A nationwide skills gap in the ballooning industry of artificial intelligence (AI) has driven the UK government to turn to university-industry collaborations to boost the number of AI graduates and plug the hole in this vital specialisation.

AI is big business in the UK with investments from venture capitalists growing by 17 percent last year. The total investment reached a record £998 million (US$1.3 billion), almost as much as the rest of Europe combined.

A new report from Dealroom shows an almost six-fold increase over five years, up from a total of US$200 million in 2014. In comparison, French AI startups raised US$400 million last year, while Germany raised US$300 million.

What the UK is lacking, however, are people to meet the demand.

In response, the government has teamed up with industry to create a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI masters courses, all including work placement training.

The scheme is the first of its kind and will be developed alongside the building of 16 dedicated centres set up at universities across the country designed to train the next generation of AI specialists.

Business Secretary Greg Clark announced the scheme on Thursday. The government intends to invest up to £110 million (US$143 million) in the programme with industry funding supporting projects.

“The UK has long been a nation of innovators. This AI skills and talent investment will help nurture leading UK and international talent to ensure we retain our world-beating reputation in research and development,” Clark said in a statement.

“Artificial intelligence has great potential to drive up productivity and enhance every industry throughout our economy, from more effective disease diagnosis to building smart homes.”

The investment is part of the wider Industrial Strategy’s Artificial Intelligence Sector Deal, which was launched in April 2018.

The latest venture will include up to 200 new AI Masters places at UK universities, funded by companies such as DeepMind, QuantumBlack, Cisco and BAE Systems. The course is developed in collaboration with the Institute of Coding and the British Computer Society.

One thousand PhD places are also offered at the newly built UK Research and Innovation AI Centres for Doctoral Training, located across the country.

AI research fellowships are also planned in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute in the hope of attracting the best international talent to Britain’s shores.

“The UK is not only the birthplace to the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, but we are leading the way on work to ensure AI innovation has ethics at its core,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright.

“We want to keep up this momentum and cement our reputation as pioneers in AI. Working with world-class academic institutions and industry, we will be able to train the next generation of top-tier AI talent and maintain the UK’s reputation as a trailblazer in emerging technologies.”