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UK gov invests £23m into 2,000 AI scholarships

The UK government has announced it is injecting £23m of new funding into AI and data conversion courses to encourage more young people from underrepresented groups to join the UK’s AI industry. 

The government said there will be up to 2,000 scholarships for master AI conversion courses to help create a new generation of experts in data science and AI, as well as improve diversity in the AI sector. 

The UK has a long history in AI, from codebreaker Alan Turing’s early work through to London-based powerhouse DeepMind’s research, which will enable quicker and more advanced drug discovery.

AI underpins the apps that help people navigate through city-scale environments, prevent e-banking fraud and communicate with smart speakers. 

Currently, the UK is home to a third of Europe’s total AI companies and is ranked third globally for private venture capital investment into AI companies, with investment reaching 2.5bn in the UK in 2019.

“We’re investing millions to ensure people from all parts of society can access the opportunities and benefits AI is creating in this country,” said Chris Philp, DCMS’s minister for tech and the digital economy. “We are doubling the number of AI scholarships previously available to underrepresented groups to build a diverse and inclusive workforce fit for the future of tech.”

The programme is part of the government’s National AI Strategy, a 10-year initiative aimed at boosting the UK's capabilities in AI as it strengthens its role as a global science and AI superpower.

“Ensuring there is a diverse talent pool furthering AI developments is vital for the success of the technology and society,” UK AI Council chair Tabitha Goldstaub added. “These masters conversion courses welcoming people from non-STEM degrees attract a less homogeneous group, which means the UK AI ecosystem benefits from graduates with different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences.” 

The government is also encouraging businesses to match the funding provided by DCMS and Office to help create a future pipeline of AI talent. 

An independent organisation, to be announced later this year, will be responsible for encouraging industry participation and investment into the AI scholarships scheme.

The new scholarships follow on from the Industrial Funded AI Masters programme, supported by the government since 2019 to increase AI skills across the UK with industry investment.