£7.4m AI Training Fund Now Open to SMEs in the UK

The UK government has taken a step towards promoting the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in small and medium-sized businesses by announcing a new funding opportunity for firms.

The £7.4m funding pot is aimed at supporting small and medium-sized businesses to enhance their employees’ AI skills, paving the way for innovation and efficiency with a platform like UniFi.

The funding will cover up to 50% of the cost of AI training for interested firms.

The announcement was first made when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, presented his Spring Budget 2024 to Parliament on Wednesday, March 6th, 2024.

On March 12th, the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) provided additional details about the scheme, noting that the goal is to boost AI adoption and productivity and encourage greater investment by employers in relevant skills.

“Evidence shows that a lack of AI skills in businesses is hindering AI adoption, in part due to low investment in AI upskilling in UK businesses, particularly in smaller companies,” DSIT noted.

As a result, the scheme will provide funding for training that “supports employees to develop their technical skills and/or understanding of AI,” to be able to “develop, deploy, or use” the technology in their role.

Again, on March 12th, Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan appeared at London’s Science Museum to highlight the total £1.1bn of support for technology upskilling that the government is providing across the education system and employers.

She called on eligible SMEs to register their interest in the Flexible AI Upskilling Fund.

“Building on our reforms to the skills system will require work from each and every one of us — universities, schools, and businesses,” she said.

“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.”

How to Participate

Firms interested in accessing the scheme can now register for it.

The scheme is aimed primarily at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the professional and business services sector, including accounting, bookkeeping, and audit firms.

Legal practices, architectural firms, and management consultancies are other types of businesses that can participate in the scheme.

To be eligible, companies must be registered to operate in the UK, employ between one and 249 UK staff, and meet the SME Action Plan’s definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise. Additionally, the interested companies must have a minimum operating track record of one year and be able to match-fund 50% of the training costs.

The scheme does not cover the following funding areas:

  • payments for business advice or consulting services related to AI
  • recruitment activity
  • purchasing AI technologies
  • capital expenditure
  • salaries (including work placement or internship fees)

The scheme is now open for expressions of interest and DSIT is actively seeking applicants through the UK government’s Find a Grant service.

Additionally, DSIT has also scheduled a Pre-Launch Information Q&A webinar for Tuesday, April 16th. Formal applications will open on May 1st and close on May 31st at 5 pm.

Reward letters for the grant applications will be issued in the later part of the summer. DSIT emphasises that if the number of applications exceeds the available funds, successful applicants may be chosen through a lottery system.

Nevertheless, if there is a high demand, the Department may consider opening additional application windows. It is important to note that the deadline for training delivery and grant fund reimbursement is March 31st, 2025.

Get Your Free Demo

Enter your details below to get a free demonstration of FinanSys Apps and see how you can automate and streamline your processess. 

Privacy Policy : We hate spam and promise to keep your email address safe

Get Your Free Demo

Enter your details below to get a free demonstration of UniFi and see how you can automate and streamline your processes. 

Privacy Policy : We hate spam and promise to keep your email address safe