Thursday 21 February 2019 10:55 am

Still a nation of innovators: Nurturing the talent to power Britain’s AI revolution

The UK has been a leading light in the development and testing of machine intelligence since Alan Turing’s pioneering work during the Second World War.

Now, we are living in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) is a reality in our everyday lives.

It’s already benefiting customers, and from advanced manufacturing to financial services, almost every sector is finding ways to utilise AI.

The UK’s leadership, alongside the huge opportunities now and in the years ahead, is why the government identified AI and big data as one of our grand challenges as part of our industrial strategy.

AI has so much potential. It can boost productivity, integrating new technology into existing processes and reducing costs by making more accurate decisions through better use of information.

It can explore the unknown that we simply would not be able to do as humans. It can be used for advanced medical imaging to operating household devices from your mobile phones.

Science and innovation have no borders, and business leaders have made it clear that they must have access to highly skilled people to explore applications of AI. The government is listening, and we agree – to be a world-leader in this exciting new dawn, we are only as good as the people working in it.

Last year, in our AI sector deal, we recognised that we need skilled AI experts, who are globally in short supply. That’s why today we are announcing a package of three new skills initiatives to build tomorrow’s workforce and harness the profound benefits of these technologies.

We have a higher education and research sector which is the envy of the world and is well-placed to deliver these new courses.

We are starting with industry-funded Master’s courses, giving students with a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject the opportunity to apply this coming year.

As the best innovations and research now increasingly cut across disciplines, we will grow this programme so that graduates from any subject – from physics to philosophy – can apply should they wish to explore this new and exciting avenue to boost their university education.

Taking this one step further, we are investing in new PhD courses at universities across the country, from Southampton to Glasgow.

Doctors of AI will push the boundaries of existing knowledge in this area, finding new ways for this technology to be used in our lives, from supporting business productivity to helping us live healthier for longer.

There is a global battle for the best talent. We must take measures to retain ours while attracting the brightest and best to the UK.

In close collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute, we are developing a new highly prestigious Fellowship scheme. Fellows doing cutting-edge research may be full-time, or will have the option to teach or collaborate on other AI initiatives alongside their projects if working part-time.

For centuries, we have been known as a nation of engineers, inventors, scientists, innovators. We have some of the world’s best talent and internationally acclaimed universities.

By bringing them together, backed by government investment, we will tackle the grand challenges and embrace the opportunities of the 21st century, not only improving people’s lives, but creating the high-skilled jobs and businesses of the future.


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