£200m to create a new generation of artificial intelligence leaders

Three centres in Scotland among 16 announced

One thousand new research and business leaders will be created to ensure the UK leads the global revolution in Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

A generation of PhD students will use AI technology to improve healthcare, tackle climate change and create new commercial opportunities, thanks to a £100m investment from UK Research and Innovation announced today. 

They will be trained at 16 new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) based at 14 UK universities with 300 partners, including AstraZeneca, Google and Rolls-Royce, and NHS trusts. Project partners are investing £78m in cash or in-kind contributions and partner universities are committing a further £23m, resulting in an overall investment of more than £200 million.

The centres include the:

  • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Natural Language Processing, led by Professor Mirella Lapata, University of Edinburgh – Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a field of AI that is developing a greater AI understanding of human language processes to allow it to respond to the reality of human speech. The CDT will equip a new generation of experts in NLP, developing future leaders and producing cutting-edge research with relevance to a wide range of applications that translate text, recognise or produce speech, answer questions, retrieve documents or facts, respond to commands, summarise articles, and simplify texts for children or non-native speakers.
  • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence, led byProfessor Guido Sanguinetti, University of Edinburgh – AI techniques hold huge promise to extract knowledge from biomedical data sets, with a significant potential impact for public health and the UK bioeconomy. The CDT aims to spearhead the development and deployment of AI techniques in the biomedical sector, focusing on the technical, biomedical and socio-ethical aspects of biomedical AI which could be used in biomedical applications.  
  • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Social Intelligent Artificial Agents (SOCIAL), led by Professor Alessandro Vinciarelli, University of Glasgow – Artificial Social Intelligence is the area of AI focusing on endowing machines with the ability to interact with human users in the same way that people interact with each other. As well as training in key areas of AI such as human-computer interaction and machine learning, students will be trained by specialists in fields such as psychology, social sciences, ethics and neuroscience. Research will be developed in collaboration with industry partners to address real-world industry problems. 

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has long been a nation of innovators and today’s package of 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.” 

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright added: “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.  

“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.”

AI has the potential to further transform the way we work and live, allowing complex tasks to be completed quickly and useful insights to be gleaned from large quantities of information.  

One example is in healthcare, where AI is being developed to analyse information and images, such as X-ray scans, to pick up abnormalities at an earlier stage and ensure that patients can receive life-saving treatment. 

The investment will sustain a pipeline of talent and ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of emerging technologies, supporting the commitment in the government’s AI Sector Deal. Also announced today are 200 new AI Masters places at UK universities and up to five new research fellows, created in collaborating with the Alan Turing Institute to retain and attract top AI talent in UK academic institutions.  

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, commented: “Artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology in a range of sectors, enabling new products and services and transforming data science. It allows us to develop new approaches to challenges as diverse as early disease diagnosis and climate change.    

“To maintain its leadership in AI, the UK will need a new generation of researchers, business leaders and entrepreneurs equipped with new skills. Working with partners across academia and industry, the centres announced today will provide the foundations for these future leaders.”