Alphabet’s DeepMind is paying to put future artificial intelligence (AI) gurus through Oxford University as the battle for AI talent increases between the tech giants.
The London-based AI lab — acquired by Google in 2014 for £400 million — has been quietly funding PhDs since at least last October, a LinkedIn search suggests.
It is one of several organisations offering to sponsor 15 students through Oxford PhDs (or DPhils as Oxford refers to them) from October 2017 onwards, according to a page on the university’s website that was posted last September.
“The studentships are for three years and are open to students of any nationality,” reads the Oxford University page. “Each studentship will cover university and college fees with a stipend of at least £14,296 per year.” Oxford goes on to say that the “topics for the studentships are open, but should relate to the interests of one of the Department’s research areas.”
Research areas include AI, machine learning, security, computational biology, and multi-agent systems, among others.
All of the tech giants are now looking at innovative ways to find people who can help them make AI breakthroughs that they can embed into their products and services, potentially making their personal assistants more useful and helping their platforms to understand who is in photos and what the user might want next.
DeepMind, which employs around 400 people inside a new Google office in London, has hired more than a dozen AI and machine learning scientists from Oxbridge since it was acquired by Google, as well as others from the likes of MIT, Stanford, and Harvard.
But hiring these people isn’t easy. Companies like Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are all offering big salaries (often in excess of £100,000 a year) in a bid to get the best people in the industry.
Offering a scholarship to students who are about to learn under some of the brightest thinkers in the world is likely to help DeepMind in its hiring efforts.
LinkedIn shows that a number of PhD students are already studying at Oxford on DeepMind scholarships.
Yannis Assael, for example, who has studied at Imperial College London and Oxford previously, writes on his LinkedIn page that he was awarded a scholarship from Google Deepmind for a DPhil in Machine Learning at Oxford in October 2015. Xiaoxuan Lu, who holds a degree from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is on the same scholarship, according to LinkedIn.
DeepMind did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.