UK unveils £118m AI skills package to ‘future-proof’ jobs

AI skills package Image credit: Yurchanka Siarhei / Shutterstock

The government has named the 12 universities set to share a £117m funding pot to help equip the UK with AI skills.

The University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton are among the academic institutions receiving funding for Centres for Doctoral Training in AI.

The £117m public funding was first announced in March as part of the government’s Science and Technology Framework.

Funding is being managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and includes an additional £1m for a new grant scheme to attract AI talent to the UK.

It follows a £8.1m investment in AI and data science postgraduate course scholarships.

Michelle Donelan, the tech secretary, said the AI doctoral training centres will “future-proof our nation’s skills base, meaning British people can reap the benefits of AI as it continues to develop.”

Other academic institutions in line for funding for AI training centres include Imperial College London, the University of Manchester and the University of Lincoln.

The £118m skills package comes as the UK hosts the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park. Government officials from 27 countries, along with Silicon Valley heavyweights and academics, will descend on the former home to top-secret World War II codebreakers.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UKRI, said: “The UK is in a strong position to harness the power of AI to transform many aspects of our lives for the better.

“Crucial to this endeavour is nurturing the talented people and teams we need to apply AI to a broad spectrum of challenges, from healthy ageing to sustainable agriculture, ensuring its responsible and trustworthy adoption.”

Ahead of the AI Safety Summit, the government made a further £100m available to find treatments for incurable diseases.

“AI skills are becoming increasingly in demand and it is good to see the UK supporting training and development in such a fast-moving field,” said Derek Mackenzie, CEO of recruitment agency Investigo, part of The IN Group.

“The key to maximising the potential of AI is the people operating it, working hand-in-hand to streamline processes as staff make AI work for them and their needs.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants to make the UK the “geographical home” of AI safety and the summit is a key part of that agenda.

However, some from the UK’s tech industry have told UKTN the event has seemed rushed in a bid to be ‘first’ and skews towards Big Tech over the smaller startups building the tools of tomorrow.

Read more: US firms dominate AI Safety Summit attendees