Home » Thousands more to train in future tech like AI as government unveils over £1.1 billion package to skill-up UK

Thousands more to train in future tech like AI as government unveils over £1.1 billion package to skill-up UK

  • Science and Technology Secretary sets out detailed plans to upskill millions across the UK
  • biggest-ever investment of more than £1 billion funding for thousands of students to pursue doctorates over the coming years in key future tech to grow economy and improve lives
  • further multi-million-pound lifts to skills opportunities and resources for those of all educational backgrounds and walks of life

Thousands more people across the UK will train and gain qualifications in future tech like artificial intelligence, and others that could transform areas like medicine, 6G and quantum computing, thanks to a package of more than £1.1 billion to skill-up the country.

Addressing the Maths Summit at the Science Museum in London today (Tuesday 12 March), the Science and Technology Secretary set out plans to revolutionise the UK’s skill-base in key industries, aiming to ensure the UK is home to the world’s most highly skilled and well-trained workforce in future technologies.

As part of these plans the Science and Technology Secretary unveiled the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical science doctoral skills – the highest university degrees. Over £1 billion from government, business, charities and academia will train over 4,000 talented students across the UK, from Edinburgh to Bristol, in 65 Centres for Doctoral Training – ensuring the UK’s brightest minds have exciting opportunities to fulfil their ambitions closer to home.

The majority of opportunities will also be led from outside the south-east of England, with more than 350 places for students in Glasgow, over 300 in Edinburgh, over 250 in Bristol and over 150 in Sheffield and Manchester respectively.

It includes a Centre at King’s College London training researchers to revolutionise personalised surgery through advanced engineering such as micro-surgical robots and chemical techniques which allow for surgery ‘without the knife’ and work at the University of Bristol to take advantage of developments in digital chemistry, including artificial intelligence, to help develop new drugs, such as antibiotics and cancer treatments. Others will support the critical technologies of engineering biology, semiconductors, quantum technologies and future telecoms which are key to giving the UK a strategic advantage, building on our country’s strengths and helping to grow the economy.

It comes alongside further investment of over £60 million for new quantum skills programmes running until 2034 – addressing a top priority for businesses developing the next generation of quantum technologies, in being able to access the right skills and talent.

This includes £14 million for 100 quantum PhD studentships in universities across the UK and another £14 million to fund early career researchers, through a competition open now and running until 10 April. It also includes £4 million to create more apprenticeship pathways into quantum through a pilot scheme and ensuring those from a range of educational backgrounds can enter the quantum workforce.  This will drive forward innovations that allow us to develop new drugs and materials, turbo charge machine learning, better diagnose and treat diseases, and more to boost economic growth and security.

Building on the Chancellor’s announcement of the £7.4 million AI upskilling fund, the Science and Technology Secretary issued a call to action for eligible small and medium enterprises in the Professional and Business Services sector to register their interest in the scheme, ahead of an information webinar in April and the application process opening in May. The pilot will help small and medium enterprises to unlock the opportunities AI brings and develop AI skills of the future, helping fuel growth across the economy.

Together these are the latest measures in the government’s mission to help businesses realise the enormous benefits of AI, which could increase UK GDP by up to 10.3% by 2030.

Addressing the Maths Summit, Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said:

Building on our reforms to the skills system will require work from each and every one of us – universities, schools, and businesses.

By doubling down on our investments in skills and backing British business, we can lay the foundations for an economy fit for the future – an economy that creates jobs and improves lives for communities up and down the country.

That is how we make our science and tech superpower mission a success.

Further measures announced today include:

An academic consortium led by the University of Birmingham will establish a £4.5 million medicines manufacturing skills centre of excellence. The centre, RESILIENCE, will include a network of academic and not-for-profit partners developing specialist training and accelerator programmes for those qualified to T-levels, to graduates to training opportunities in work.

The launch of a competition to select a delivery partner in March for the up to £3 million Science & Technology Venture Capital Fellowship Programme unveiled in November’s Autumn Statement. The scheme aims to bring in world-leading investors that will deliver breakthroughs in vaccines, AI, and robots and beyond, with places for 30 people open as part of the pilot scheme.

A new Future Telecoms Skills Taskforce, involving stakeholders from government, academia and industry will be launched to ensure the UK has the skills for a connected future among those of all education backgrounds.

Building on our campaign to drive more people into digital careers, we want to go further. We are working closely with industry and the Digital Skills Council to explore how we can continue to inspire people to choose careers in tech and widen access to the best free digital upskilling resources designed by industry.

Progress on supporting the establishment of a new National Academy for Maths which has been warmly received by the sector since a call for evidence was launched in January. Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) will shortly publish a response ahead of releasing the final specification and launching a short competition to identify and organisation to receive government support.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said:

Adopting the latest cutting-edge technology will allow us to deliver faster, simpler, and fairer care for patients, and this investment reflects the scale of our ambition.

AI will form a central part of our recently announced £3.4 billion plan to boost productivity in the NHS, which will deliver quicker test results, replace outdated IT systems, and unlock £35 billion in savings.

As part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we will also harness technological innovations to enable new ways of working, while recruiting and retaining hundreds of thousands more staff.

Professor Sheila Rowan, Chair of the Quantum Skills Taskforce, said:

I’m delighted to see these investments, targeting opportunities for apprentices, engineers, and scientists to start and develop rewarding careers within the UK quantum sector. More than doubling the number of quantum Centres for Doctoral Training demonstrates the UK’s long-term commitment to quantum technologies.

These investments will bolster our world leading research, while supporting our innovative businesses to access the quantum skills and talent they need to grow. Developing these skills will be vital to achieve the UK’s ambitious goal of becoming a leading quantum-enabled economy, and unlocking the economic potential offered by quantum technologies. I look forward to supporting the UK in this endeavour by continuing the work of the Quantum Skills Taskforce.

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said:

The Centres for Doctoral Training announced today will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

Spanning locations across the UK and a wide range of disciplines, the new centres are a vivid illustration of the UK’s depth of expertise and potential, which will help us to tackle large-scale, complex challenges and benefit society and the economy.

The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.

Notes to editors

Funding for the 65 CDTs are broken down as below:

  • £479 million by EPSRC, this funding includes £16 million of additional UKRI funding to support CDTs in quantum technologies.
  • Over £7 million from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, also part of UKRI, to co-fund three CDTs  
  • £16 million by the MOD to support two CDTs  
  • £169 million by UK universities  
  • plus a further £420 million in financial and in-kind support from business partners.

The Medicines Manufacturing consortium involves University of Birmingham, UCL, Teesside University (NHC), Heriot-Watt University and Britest LTD.