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Only A Third Of UK Firms Invest In AI Technologies, New Research Shows

UK Businesses Slow to Embrace AI Revolution, Risking Digital Skills Gap

The march of AI machines in the workplace has been greatly exaggerated, according to new research from the UK.

Only around a third of British businesses have invested in industrial robots, chatbots, smart assistants and cloud computing over the past five years.

It risks a growing divide as just one in ten of those who haven’t plan to do so in the next two years.

The AI (artificial intelligence) revolution isn’t happening yet – with three-quarters of employers finding it difficult to recruit staff with the right digital skills.

Fewer than 10 percent expect to focus on training in the coming years.

Study lead author Professor Mark Stuart, of Leeds University Business School, said: “A mix of hope, speculation, and hype is fueling a runaway narrative that the adoption of new AI-enabled digital technologies will rapidly transform the UK’s labor market, boosting productivity and growth.

“These hopes are often accompanied by fears about the consequences for jobs and even of existential risk.

“However, our findings suggest there is a need to focus on a different policy challenge.

“The workplace AI revolution is not happening quite yet. Policymakers will need to address both low employer investment in digital technologies and low investment in digital skills if the UK economy is to realize the potential benefits of digital transformation.”

The Digital Futures at Work Research Centre survey found just 36 percent of employers have so far invested in AI and machine-learning technologies.

Almost six-in-10 employers reported none of their staff had received formal digital skills training in the past year.

SUZHOU, CHINA – JUNE 27, 2023 – A child interacts with a highly simulated robot in front of an exhibitor’s booth at the Meta Universe International Equipment Exhibition in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, June 27, 2023. PHOTO BY CFOTO/GETTY IMAGES 

Stijn Broecke, senior economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said: “At a time when AI is shifting digitalization into a higher gear, it’s important to move beyond the hype and have a debate driven by evidence rather than fear and anecdote.

“This new report does exactly this and provides a nuanced picture of the impact of digital technologies on the workplace, highlighting both the risks and the opportunities.”

The main reasons for investing were improving efficiency, productivity and product and service quality.

Key reasons for non-investment were AI being irrelevant to business activity, wider business risks and the nature of skills demanded.

There was little evidence in the nationally representative sample to suggest that AI-enabled technology leads to job losses.

In fact, digital adopters were more likely to have increased their employment in the five-year period before the survey.

The researchers urged politicians to focus on the facts of AI in the workplace as policymakers race to keep up with developments.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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