£8 million in UK government funding to support 800 AI scholarships

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More than £8 million in funding has been awarded by the UK government to support regional innovation and create hundreds of AI scholarships across the country.

In total, 800 AI-related scholarships will be awarded as part of the scheme, which the government said builds on long-standing support for the sector.

More than 1,800 scholarships have been delivered in the past three years, with upwards of £18 million allocated to supporting AI skills development.

Eligible students will be able to apply for masters courses across the country that will teach “practical AI and data science skills”, as well as coding, programming, machine learning, and AI ethics.

The government said the courses will play a key role in preparing the future workforce for AI and support its ambition to position the UK as a “world leader in AI safety”.

Derek Mackenzie, CEO at global skills provider Investigo, welcomed the scholarship funding announcement, adding that the investment will provide the UK tech industry with a vital talent pipeline.

“With AI adoption surging on a global scale, getting access to candidates fully equipped with the latest AI capabilities has been a major challenge for businesses,” he said.

“The skills crisis has also left many companies struggling to build a robust talent pipeline, leaving them under-resources at such a critical time.

“This scholarship programme will be a huge boost for students seeking to further their knowledge in key areas like data science, coding, and programming and give businesses a wider talent pool of new candidates to hire and develop in the future.”

Regional development funding

The scholarship funding, announced by technology secretary Michelle Donelan, forms part of the new £60 million Regional Innovation Fund (RIF) and will provide support for universities in “areas with lower levels of research and development”.

The move is part of a drive to boost tech skills across the UK, and will see all four UK nations allocated funding based on their relative size.

This includes a £48.8 million funding boost for universities in England, as well as £5.8 million for academic institutions in Scotland.

Wales and Northern Ireland will both receive funding of £3.4 million and £2 million respectively.

AI skills shortages

The rapid acceleration of the global AI market over the last year has raised concerns over the ability for businesses to find appropriate talent. 

A recent study from GitLab found that human expertise on generative AI is reaching a concerning “inflection point”, with many businesses struggling to find workers with AI skills. 


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To combat this, organizations are focusing heavily on in-house training programs to fill gaps. However, the study found that current AI training resources don’t adequately address the issue and could present challenges moving forward.

Appropriate skills and a lack of knowledge on the topic were both highlighted as “key obstacles” to AI adoption, GitLab found.

A similar study from Virgin Media O2 earlier this year found that the UK’s broader digital skills gap costs the UK economy over £12.8 billion, underlining the need for greater investment in skills development across the board.

Josh Boer, director at tech consultancy VeUP, said that with AI currently disrupting the technology industry, schemes to support skills development in this area are critical.

“It’s absolutely critical that the next generation are given every opportunity to gain access to qualifications in such an important technology. This funding will also be a huge boost for ambitious businesses, giving them access to a new wave of AI-equipped candidates to recruit and take their company forward.”

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

For news pitches, you can contact Ross at ross.kelly@futurenet.com, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.