The UK has announced new measures to protect and future-proof its AI skills base with a £118 million boost to skills funding. As part of this, The University of Manchester has been awarded funding for a new UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Decision Making for Complex Systems.

The centre, led by Dr Mauricio A Álvarez, will train the next generation of AI researchers to develop AI methods designed to accelerate new scientific discoveries – specifically in the fields of astronomy, engineering biology and material science.

The University of Manchester will be working in partnership with The University of Cambridge, strengthening the cross-UK innovation cluster between the two regions. It is one of 12 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in Artificial Intelligence (AI) based at 16 universities, announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on 31 October.

The investment by UKRI aims to ensure that the UK continues to have the skills needed to seize the potential of the AI era and to nurture the British tech talent that will push the AI revolution forward. 

The funding aims to accelerate the integration of AI into aspects of daily life. It will set out to ‘future-proof’ the nation’s AI capabilities by promoting research and developing the workforce. 

£117 million in total has been awarded to the 12 CDTs and builds on the previous UKRI investment of £100 million in 2018.

Additionally, £1m will go towards the establishment of an AI Futures Grants scheme which will assist emerging AI leaders from around the world in the cost of relocating to the UK. 

In collaboration with the British Council and UK universities, the UK government is also funding 15 scholarships for international students. There will also be a new dedicated visa scheme for early career researchers to come to the UK for internships and placements. 

Doctoral students at The University of Manchester will be provided with a foundation in Machine Learning and AI and an in-depth understanding of the implications of its application to solve real-world problems.

The programme will also cover the areas of responsible AI and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Dr Mauricio A Álvarez, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning at The University of Manchester, said: “We are delighted to be awarded funding for this new AI CDT. Manchester is investing heavily in AI research and translation, and the CDT will complement other significant efforts in research through our AI Fundamentals Centre at the University and innovation via the Turing Innovation Catalyst. Our partnership with Cambridge will also enable us to educate experts capable of generalising and translating nationally to stimulate the development and adoption of AI technology in high-potential, lower AI-maturity sectors.

“Modern science depends on a variety of complex systems, both in terms of the facilities that we use and the processes that we model. AI has the potential to help us understand these systems better, as well as to make them more efficient.

“The AI methods we will develop will apply to a wide range of challenges in complex systems, from transport systems to sports teams. We are partnering with a diverse pool of industry collaborators to address these challenges jointly.”


UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:“The UK is in a strong position to harness the power of AI to transform many aspects of our lives for the better. Crucial to this endeavour is nurturing the talented people and teams we need to apply AI to a broad spectrum of challenges, from healthy ageing to sustainable agriculture, ensuring its responsible and trustworthy adoption. UKRI is investing £117 million in Centres for Doctoral Training to develop the talented researchers and innovators we need for success.”


Dr Kedar Pandya, Executive Director, of Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI, said:“This £117 million investment, will involve multiple business and institutional partners for the Centres of Doctoral Training. These include well-known brands such as IBM, Astra Zeneca, and Google, as well as small to medium-sized enterprises that are innovating in the AI field. A further £110 million has been leveraged from all partners in the form of cash or in-kind contributions such as use of facilities, resources or expertise.”

The first cohort of UKRI AI CDT students will start in the 2024/2025 academic year, recruitment for which will begin shortly.