People and processesDigital SkillsInvestment announced for AIEd and data science

Investment announced for AIEd and data science

The investment in AIEd and data science is part of government’s commitment to boost gender diversity in the tech sector and to upskill and retrain adults

Government investment of £13.5 million has been announced to help develop artificial intelligence in education (AIEd) and data science conversion degrees, with scholarships for people from underrepresented groups.

Up to 2,500 people will have the opportunity to retrain and become experts in AIEd and data science, thanks to the investment to fund new degree and Masters conversion courses and 1,000 scholarships at UK academic institutions over the next three years.

The new fund builds on the work already underway through the Government’s Education Technology Strategy, published in April, which includes £10 million investment to support innovation and raise the bar in schools, colleges and universities across England.

In a similar development, Tech Nation opened applications for the first ever applied AI growth programme to benefit start-ups.

Speaking ahead of his speech at CogX, the Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The UK has a long standing reputation for innovation, world-leading academic institutions and a business friendly environment and everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to build a successful career in our world-leading tech sector.

“Through these new AI and Data Conversion courses and our modern Industrial Strategy, we are committed to working with the tech sector and academia to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world.”

Creating a more diverse future workforce

Potential applicants to the AI and Data Conversion courses will hold a degree in other disciplines and scholarships will be made available to support applications from diverse backgrounds. This could include people returning to work after a career break and looking to retrain in a new profession, under-represented groups in the AI and digital workforce, including women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds, or lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Tech Nation statistics published in 2018 revealed only 19 per cent of our tech workforce are women.

Creating a more diverse future workforce will help with the design of new technology, including the fair and accurate development of algorithms, and tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time – from protecting our environment, to transforming the way we live and work, and saving lives through diagnosing diseases earlier.

The news follows the recently announced multimillion skills package which saw the creation of industry-funded AI Masters, prestigious Alan Turing Institute AI research fellowships, and 16 dedicated Centres at universities across the country to train 1000 extra AI PhDs.

Developing impactful technology

Confirmation of the new funding comes as Tech Nation opens applications for the first ever Applied AI growth programme. This will give AI startups across the UK the opportunity to benefit from meeting with industry leaders and investors in the sector and meet with their peers to develop impactful technology.

Technologies developed under the Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fun will help inform the Government’s National Retraining Scheme. The National Retraining Scheme aims to upskill individuals in the UK most at risk of redundancy with the knowledge they need to progress in work, secure better employment, and redirect their careers.

On the launch of the new Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “Artificial Intelligence and other new technologies are transforming the way we live and work and have the potential to radically improve online learning and training, so more people can get the skills they need.

“We all have busy lives, juggling work and family commitments so online courses are a great way for‎ more people to retrain or upskill and secure a rewarding career. Investing in cutting edge technologies such as AI will mean we can future proof the online learning experience and ensure it better meets students’ needs.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for technology firms to work with Government to put their ideas into action to help develop pioneering online training opportunities for adults.”

Use of AIEd

A report presenting the findings from a study examining the functioning of the online/blended learning and AIEd markets found that the structure of the AIEd market is not effective. There are few AIEd specialists and few online learning providers that use AIEd products. This is largely because there is no significant financial incentive for developers to produce AIEd products because there is poor information, little explicit learner, employer or provider demand and high development costs to develop an AI algorithm that is tailored to a particular course.

Alongside this, it is also difficult for potential customers to distinguish between ‘good’ AIEd and ‘bad’ AIEd, as the algorithms used are not easy for customers to assess. This limits high quality AIEd developers to distinguish themselves from their competitors in order to increase their market share.

Even so, the regulatory environment for skills training does not inhibit the use of AIEd. There are no restrictions that limit the use of AIEd for delivering public funded courses and the Ofsted inspection regime does not penalise providers from using AIEd. As a
consequence, there are few barriers for providers to expand their use of AIEd. Moreover, the short contract periods and limited liabilities of AIEd developers means they can easily leave the market if they so wish.

The Government’s Industrial Strategy recognised that there needs to be significant investment in the development of people in order to achieve its ambition of the UK leading industries of the future.

An AI grant is helping to discover how AI can empower people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity.

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