Within a month of becoming president of the British computer Society, Professor Nigel Shadbolt warns a looming skills gap could see the UK lose out on ‘the information age’.

The professor of artificial intelligence in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton said: "We believe we have a crisis."

From previously unpublished research, Shadbolt revealed demand for IT and computer graduates has doubled in the past four years while the number of students studying the subject has fallen by a third.

"We now have an economy where information is one of the primary assets,” said Shadbolt. "So really understanding the consequences of the technology and the society on business is fundamental."

He highlighted to long-term crisis facing the UK against a backdrop of strong emerging elsewhere in the world, like India and China. "They are equipping their younger generation, their graduates, with substantial amounts of skills particularly in computing and IT and we do not want to be faced with the situation in which the major corporates who have traditionally sought skills of that sort in this country look to supply that demand offshore," he said.

He urged the government to invest in advanced levels of training so the needs of large corporations could be met, suggesting the latest measures to equip workers with basic desktop IT skills in adequate.

"It's a little bit like stating that to supply the requirements for doctors and medically trained staff in the country we teach increasing numbers of people first aid," he said.

Professor Shadbolt gave his first major interview after taking up office to BBC News.