The BCC’s new Digital Revolution Challenge has held its first meeting to discuss ground-breaking research on how businesses are using Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The survey, by the BCC’s Insight Unit – of more than 700 firms, mostly SMEs, found that:
- Almost half of all firms (48%) have no plans to use AI technology
- Customer facing businesses (B2C) are even less likely to use AI, with 58% stating they have no plans to use it
- One in four respondents (26%) think AI is going to lead to fewer jobs in their sector, with more B2B firms (29%) predicting a negative impact
Alongside the 48% that have no plans to use AI, the survey found a further 22% were not currently using it but planned to in the future.
Businesses were also asked what types of AI they are currently using, with chatbots, such as ChatGPT, being the most popular application (18% of all respondents). Other technologies cited included:
- Machine learning data analysis (6%)
- Speech recognition (6%)
- Virtual agents for customer service (3%)
- Robotic process automation (3%)
- Natural language generation (3%)
- Deep learning or neural networks (1%)
The data also showed that companies with more than 50 employees were more likely to be currently investigating the use of AI in their operations than smaller ones, with 24% using chatbots, and only 37% stating they had no plans to use it at all.
Why firms are, or are not, using AI
Of the respondents who are currently using AI, common uses cited included coding, data analysis, language translation, content creation, and as a sounding board for ideas.
By contrast, of the respondents who have no plans to use cited the following barriers: lack of relevance, investment cost, reliability, lack of understanding, and risks around scams or privacy.
The research also found that 36% of businesses thought it was still too early to predict the impact of AI on jobs, while just one in 8 firms (12%) thought it would lead to an overall net increase in jobs in their sector.
Responding to the implications of the data, Priya Guha, Chair of the BCC’s Digital Revolution Challenge, said:
“With AI being considered so central to boosting the UK’s productivity this research on current levels of business engagement is an eye opener.
“It is certainly a concern that almost half of firms say they do not plan to use AI either now or in the future.
“But when we consider the economic conditions that businesses have been grappling with since the pandemic, it is no surprise that 51% of firms with fewer than 50 employees aren’t planning to use AI against 37% of larger businesses.
“The BCC’s Digital Revolution Challenge is clear that the benefits to business from using AI are many. It will lead to efficiency gains, improved decision-making, better customer experiences, enhanced risk management and game-changing innovations.
“It is essential for competitiveness in the modern business landscape, so we must make sure that every UK company is involved in this journey.
“Our task now is to pull together a set of clear and pragmatic recommendations, for both Government and UK companies, to make this happen.
“We have a position of responsibility here, and we must use our influence to improve awareness of the benefits of AI.
“Improving clarity and certainty amongst businesses on AI will drive confidence to use it effectively. As it stands, it is alarming that a sizeable number of firms think it is irrelevant.”