Feb 21, 2019

The United Kingdom ups its AI play

An Enigma codebreaker like the one developed by Alan Turing. Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty

Seeking to play in a global technology race dominated by the U.S. and China, the U.K. says it will pay for about 1,200 students to earn AI master's and PhDs in its universities, and fund the salaries of 3 to 5 more to join the nation's top AI lab.

The big picture: Given the paucity of AI talent, 1,200 is a highly ambitious target, a number that, if fully realized, could go far toward making the U.K. competitive in the global race.

  • The U.K.'s top universities and several high-profile companies have kept it in the running alongside the U.S. and China. But many U.K.-trained researchers end up working for American tech giants, such as Google's DeepMind.
  • "Well known Big Tech companies have been paying high salaries to attract people out of academia," says Adrian Weller, director of the AI program at the Alan Turing Institute, the U.K.'s national institute for data science and AI. "This is an attempt to redress the balance."

By the numbers:

  • The U.K. government says it will pay up to £110 million — about $144 million — for the training programs, and that private companies will chip in millions more.
  • The money will fund the education of 1,000 PhD students, and up to 200 master's students.
  • The Turing Institute will pay salaries of up to $114,000 for top academic researchers. This is a far cry from the hundreds of thousands in annual salary paid by big companies, and slightly lower than tenured faculty jobs in academia.

Go deeper: Today's announcement is part of the U.K.'s national AI plan, announced last year, which includes the equivalent of $1.3 billion in funding.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.