U.K. government to invest £100M in artificial intelligence-focused Ph.D.s

london uk big ben
The new money follows a government deal with life sciences sector last December to use big data and digital technologies to help bring clinical trials to the country. (Pixabay)

As the hard date for Brexit approaches, the U.K. government announced it would invest £100 million ($130 million) to attract 1,000 new Ph.D. placements at universities across the country focused on artificial intelligence development, including for the life sciences industry.

During his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the head of Her Majesty’s Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, described the move as a way to help futureproof the U.K. economy going forward.

The money is part of the country’s Industrial Strategy and will fund research into technology for NHS hospitals, among other areas of the wider economy. According to the U.K. government, the country’s digital sector has topped £130 billion and 2 million people, with the number of jobs growing at twice the rate of other segments.

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And, according to the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the U.K. serves as the third-largest life sciences R&D center, after the East and West coasts of the U.S.

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“Today’s investment will help our members get the talent they need to discover the treatments of the future,” the ABPI’s chief scientific officer, Carole Longson, said in a statement. “And it will help to ensure they continue to invest in R&D in the U.K. and keep Britain at the forefront of global science.”

The new money builds on a government deal with life sciences sector outlined last December to use big data and digital technologies to attract clinical trials to the country—including a new system for assessing study feasibility and an app that connects patients to available studies to speed up enrollment.

“Britain is a great place to do business. And we are determined, as we leave the EU, to make sure it remains that way,” Hammond said this week in prepared statements.

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However, with just over two months to go until Brexit’s deadline of March 29, it’s still very unclear how the life sciences industry will be affected.

With the head of the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency announcing that he will step down from the job six months after Brexit, the MHRA could have to face changing leadership while dealing with the national fallout.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has continuously advised companies to prepare for a “no deal” exit scenario, while it deals with moving its own headquarters from London to Amsterdam. The EMA expects to finalize the relocation of its staff into temporary digs by the end of March and have its new permanent home fully operational by mid-November.

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