China plans to nurture at least 5,500 talents in artificial intelligence from top universities to gain a lead in the apex technology as the country aspires to be a top contender in the sector.
Under the plan, China will nurture more than 5,000 students and 500 teachers in AI from top universities within five years and aims to build the world's largest AI talent training program.
The move came after China's top authorities called for accelerated efforts to strengthen AI research as well as to train a new generation of talents during this year's two sessions. A Goldman Sachs report also pointed out that talent is one of the key drivers of value creation in China's AI development.
"The Ministry of Education is working on setting up AI majors and is promoting AI to be a first-level subject to further enrich the AI education system in Chinese universities," said Xu Tao, director of international cooperation and communication at the Ministry of Education, during the launch ceremony of the program.
The latest project has joined forces from government authorities, companies, and universities including the Ministry of Education, leading venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures and Peking University.
Under the program, 300 students and 100 teachers will first be trained this year with senior experts from both home and abroad being mentors, such as John E Hopcroft, an A.M. Turing Award winner and a professor at Cornell University as well as Li Kaifu, chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures.
"In China right now, the commercialization of AI has created a scarcity of AI talents as the country still has a gap in the number of AI talents and the scale of AI research and development teams in companies," said Wang Yonggang, deputy head of the AI Institute of Sinovation Ventures.
China has surpassed the US in the number of emerging AI projects last year and accounted for over half of the total projects. However, in terms of global AI talents, China made up for only 5 percent, according to a Goldman Sachs report.
"We want to fill this gap and break the bottleneck by nurturing AI talents to help them stand at the forefront of advanced AI technologies and apply them efficiently in the market," Wang said.
Sinovation Ventures established an AI Institute in 2016 to offer talents support in technologies, marketing, data and other segments and established an AI talent training program last year.