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Next generation of artificial intelligence talent to be trained at UK universities

06 March 2019

Thousands of graduates will become qualified experts in artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a new joint government-industry package to drive up skills in the AI sector.

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For the first time, the UK will have a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI Masters courses coupled with work-based placements.

The new skills and talent package is a major milestone of the modern Industrial Strategy’s AI Sector Deal which was launched in April 2018. It is supported by industry funding and up to £110 million government investment, including:

• up to 200 new AI Masters places at UK universities funded by companies such as DeepMind, QuantumBlack, Cisco and BAE Systems. The Masters programme marks the first nationwide effort to address the skills gap at this level, in collaboration with the Institute of Coding and British Computer Society
• 1,000 students will have the opportunity to enhance their skills with new PhDs at 16 dedicated UK Research and Innovation AI Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), located across the country
• up to 5 AI research Fellowships, created in collaboration with The Alan Turing Institute to both attract and retain the best research talent from around the world.

The announcement comes as new figures prepared for Tech Nation by reveal the number of venture capital investments into the UK’s rapidly growing AI sector leapt by 17% last year.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “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.

“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. Today’s announcement is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, investing in skills and talent to drive high skilled jobs, growth and productivity across the UK.”

As companies throughout the UK increasingly use AI in processes from manufacturing to fashion and construction to medical imaging, upskilling people to develop and maintain the new technology is crucial to its success in boosting productivity. This is part of the government’s continued drive to be a world-leader in harnessing the economic benefits of AI and the data-driven revolution, as part of the modern Industrial Strategy.

The schemes, aimed at people of different stages in higher education and available to researchers at a variety of levels, helps to build advanced AI skills at all levels, a key commitment contained within the AI Sector Deal.

Finally, to develop the best and brightest AI researchers in the UK, the government is funding a new globally prestigious Fellowship programme. The first wave has been launched by The Alan Turing Institute.

Adrian Smith, Institute Director, The Alan Turing Institute said: “Artificial intelligence represents an incredible opportunity to transform our economy and our lives for the better. The Turing AI Fellowships will be crucial in building UK leadership capability, driving forward ambitious research and ensuring that the UK can attract, retain, and develop world-leading research talent.”

ERIKS has welcomed these plans, however there are still formidable barriers to implementing AI in a way which will really benefit maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) work. David Manning-Ohren, ERIKS’ Business Development Manager, explains why these need to be removed in order for industry to fully reap the benefits offered by AI.

“This new joint government-industry package is a positive step in addressing the skills gap at masters and PhD levels. 

“However, more needs to be done to enable the seamless transfer of production data, which will significantly affect the success or failure of AI in industry. But many OEMs, component suppliers and manufacturers remain deeply reluctant to do this over security concerns. ERIKS’ own research shows that 79% of respondents would only share very limited information with their OEM equipment partner, if at all.

“AI’s ability to accurately analyse connected industrial data will help businesses to make informed decisions quickly. Industry therefore needs to start breaking down the barriers that are going to prevent data sharing. Developing appropriate security solutions, from firewalls to private cloud environments, FOG computing and beyond will address these concerns, but we must also promote the benefits that greater data sharing can bring.

“By protecting industry without putting barriers in the way of delivering greater productivity and improved maintenance practices, we can lay a strong foundation for AI to flourish.”

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