A £60 million Regional Innovation Fund (RIF) that will boost support for universities in areas with lower levels of R&D investment is among new measures announced by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

Donelan unveiled the scheme alongside the launch of an independent review into sex and gender data gathering and, separately, a commitment of a further £8m towards artificial intelligence scholarships that will give 800 more people the opportunity to excel in the sector.

The RIF – relative to the size of each UK nation – will see £48.8m go towards 110 universities across England and will be delivered by Research England.

A further £5.8m for Scotland, £3.4m for Wales and £2m for Northern Ireland will be allocated to devolved administrations to support local and regional economies.

Separately, a review into sex and gender data will be launched to ensure researchers and public bodies can gather the information they need to effectively plan key services. As a funder of research and producer and user of statistics, the government relies on accurate information to inform research and effective policy-making in a wide range of fields, from health to crime, to education to the economy.

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The review, supported by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, will be led by Professor Alice Sullivan of University College London. Its terms of reference will be agreed in the coming weeks and is expected to conclude by spring of next year.

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Eligible students for the £8m AI pot can study a range of master’s courses across England which teach practical AI and data science skills, coding, programming, machine learning, health data science and AI ethics – preparing them for jobs of the future and boosting Britain’s ambition to become a world leader in AI safety.