The UK Government is set to invest up to £17 million to create 2,000 scholarships in AI and data science conversion courses. The investment aims to bolster skills and diversity in artificial intelligence jobs, with a particular focus on groups underrepresented in the tech industry. This includes women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
The scholarships, each worth £10,000, will aid individuals in entering the AI and data science job market—even if their previous experience is not directly related to these fields. The funding is part of a long-term strategy to build up the UK's AI talent pool and fortify the strength and diversity of its businesses.
The Government is calling on companies to join them in co-funding these scholarships. Together, Government and industry funding will enable graduates to undertake further study courses in AI and data science.
The UK Government states it is focused on making its AI industry world-leading, and bolstering its workforce with newly skilled individuals will ensure that the country continues to be at the forefront of AI developments.
The Rt Hon Chris Philp MP, DCMS Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, emphasised the UK's standing as a world leader in AI and stated, "Today we're investing millions to ensure people from all parts of society can access the opportunities and benefits AI is creating in this country."
"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."
Research has shown that the first phase of the AI and data science conversion courses had a positive and diverse effect on student enrolment. Of the students that received scholarships, 76% were women, 45% were black, and 24% had disabilities. These figures hint at the success of the scholarships in boosting representation in the tech industry - in particular, the AI and data science field.
Tabitha Goldstaub, Chair of the UK AI Council, described a "diverse talent pool" as "vital for the success of the technology and society." She views the scholarships as a significant step towards shaping a more diverse AI community in the UK, which will bring valuable multidisciplinary expertise to the field.
An independent organisation, set to be announced later this year, will be tasked with encouraging industry participation and investment into the AI Scholarships scheme.
This funding, as well as the success of the first round of AI courses, represents the Government's ongoing commitment to long-term planning that focuses on investing in AI development and securing public trust and support through inclusive initiatives.
The next round of the AI scholarship scheme will commence in April 2023 and will be available until 2025, with an open competition to be held for universities in England to bid for the scholarships.
This forms part of the Government's pledge to further invest in this initiative, having confirmed the creation of 2,000 AI scholarships, which added to the existing 1,000 AI and data science conversion course scholarships during the 2021 Conservative party conference.