The next generation of electronics is likely to incorporate various functional materials, including those exhibiting ferroelectricity, ferromagnetism and metal–insulator transitions. Metal–insulator transitions can be controlled by electron doping, and so incorporating such a material in transistor channels will enable us to significantly modulate transistor current. However, such gate-controlled metal–insulator transitions have been challenging because of the limited number of electrons accumulated by gate dielectrics, or possible electrochemical reaction in ionic liquid gate. Here we achieve a positive-bias gate-controlled metal–insulator transition near the transition temperature. A significant number of electrons were accumulated via a high-permittivity TiO2 gate dielectric with subnanometre equivalent oxide thickness in the inverse-Schottky-gate geometry. An abrupt transition in the VO2 channel is further exploited, leading to a significant current modulation far beyond the capacitive coupling. This solid-state operation enables us to discuss the electrostatic mechanism as well as the collective nature of gate-controlled metal–insulator transitions, paving the pathway for developing functional field effect transistors.