UK businesses are not adopting artificial intelligence (AI) at the same pace as elsewhere in Europe, largely because of a shortage of AI skills, expertise and knowledge a survey has found.
The findings from the IBM Global AI Adoption Index revealed that a skills gap was cited by 38% of UK respondents as the key inhibitor to AI adoption, compared with 28% across Europe and only 24% in France.
A third of UK respondents said their company had accelerated their rollout of AI in the past two years, compared with a European average of 49%. More than a third (36%) of UK companies surveyed had also stalled their AI investment in that period, versus 27% across Europe.
The data revealed that Italian and Spanish businesses are leaping ahead of their neighbours in leveraging AI, with 57% and 56% respectively saying they had increased their use of AI in the past two years. Other European economies surveyed included France (49%) and Germany (46%).
Ebru Binboga, director of data, AI and automation for IBM UK & Ireland, said: “There is clear recognition of the value AI can bring to organisations as they look to address a range of priorities and unlock growth.
AI adoption in the UK
“The findings reveal that companies in the UK, and around the world, are investing in AI capabilities to help them overcome challenges such as skills and labour shortages and accelerate innovation.
“We’re also seeing a large proportion of UK businesses looking to AI to help them meet ambitious sustainability targets, highlighting the important role AI is playing both for organisations and society at large.”
The data suggested a significant proportion of UK companies are planning to use AI applications to address the shortage of labour and skills. More than 40% plan to use AI to retrain their workforce – the second highest priority for AI investment after research & development – while 59% plan to use AI automation tools to reduce manual or repetitive tasks.
However, the survey’s findings suggest the UK could be catching up with its neighbours as businesses emerge from the pandemic. The UK had the highest proportion (47%) of companies that were exploring using AI, and a majority (85%) of UK businesses said they either have an AI strategy or are developing one – only slightly behind the Europe average of 89%.
UK companies say AI was helping them address labour and skills shortages by automating repetitive and manual tasks (59%), supporting learning and training (45%), and improving recruitment and HR processes (42%).
The research was conducted by Morning Consult in April 2022 among 7,500 global businesses, including 500 in the UK.