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Industry and academia hope major AI skills programme could boost UK productivity

Professional Engineering

Stock image (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image (Credit: Shutterstock)

Thousands of specialists in artificial intelligence (AI) could boost productivity in manufacturing and other sectors thanks to a new academic and industrial collaboration, the government has said.

Universities will offer up to 200 new AI masters places, supported by companies including BAE Systems and Alphabet’s DeepMind, and another 1,000 will be available at 16 dedicated research and innovation AI centres around the country.

The programme, which is supported by industry funding and £110m government investment, aims to boost AI skills to improve a number of sectors and to attract international investment.

“The UK is home to some of the most advanced and exciting AI R&D on the planet, with commercial momentum for our technology and services growing across global markets,” Tim Ensor from AI masters provider Cambridge Consultants told Professional Engineering. “This is happening at a rapid pace and to fully capitalise on the opportunity requires initiatives like this, where industry and academia come together supported by government.”

Companies and manufacturing organisations have often allayed fears of big job losses from automation by claiming that workers will instead take up more highly skilled roles, using knowledge of AI to monitor production lines and maximise efficiency.

“As companies throughout the UK increasingly use AI in processes from manufacturing to fashion and construction to medical imaging, ‘up-skilling’ people to develop and maintain the new technology is crucial to its success in boosting productivity,” said digital secretary Jeremy Wright.

The programme announcement, which also includes up to five AI research fellowships in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute, came as new figures for Tech Nation by Dealroom revealed that the number of venture-capital investments in the UK’s AI sector increased by 17% last year.

“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,” said business secretary Greg Clark. “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.”


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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