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A coalition including the British national funding agency UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and 300 public and private partners has created a fund of more than £200 million (US$266 million) to create “a new generation of artificial-intelligence leaders.” The new money pot, according to a UKRI press statement, will finance postgraduate training that will result in “one thousand new research and business leaders … to ensure that the U.K. leads the global revolution in artificial intelligence (AI).”

Sixteen doctoral-training centers

The new £200 million money pot will include a £100 million investment from UKRI—a non-departmental public body, with a budget of more than £6 billion, that brings together the country’s seven national research councils, the national innovation agency Innovate UK, and the university research and knowledge exchange Research England. The remaining funds will include £78 million in cash or in-kind contributions from industrial and public partners such as AstraZeneca, Google, Rolls-Royce and the U.K. National Health Service (NHS), and £23 million from 14 partner universities.

Those funds will be used to stand up 16 new centers for doctoral training, based at the 14 partner universities, and to fund a total of a thousand Ph.D. student positions at the 16 centers. The centers themselves will seek to promote AI in a variety of sectors and undertakings, including foundational AI research, applications in health care, diagnostics and biomedicine, environmental sustainability, speech and language, machine learning and advanced computing, nanoelectronic devices and systems, and even music.

The program also gives a nod toward the ethical and human dimensions of AI, with centers planned for doctoral training in “accountable, responsible and transparent AI,” human-machine interaction, and the development of “safe and trusted artificial intelligence.” (A complete list of the centers planned under the program can be found in the UKRI press statement.)

Name-dropping Alan Turing

The creation of the fund suggests that the U.K. sees AI as a place it can build on historic strengths to establish a strong position in a potentially disruptive technology. Jeremy Wright, the country’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that the U.K. “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.”

The U.K. secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, focused on AI’s broader economic impact. “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,” Clark said. “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 U.K.”