Just one in ten UK orgs have significant AI investment plan

Gen AI still in the pilot stage, despite government hopes to be world leader

Despite the frothing hype around generative AI — and the UK government’s hopes it will bring economic growth — only one in ten UK tech leaders have large scale implementations of any kind of AI, a figure that has not changed in five years.

This is according to a survey by Nash Squared – a digital services company which owns recruiter Harvey Nash – which found just 12 percent of 1,185 tech leaders surveyed in the UK are prepared for the demands of generative AI.

The attitudes of on-the-ground tech leaders are not exactly in synch with the UK government, which wants to be seen as world-leading in the field.

Promoting the UK's Global AI Safety Summit 2023, to be held at World War II code breakers’ HQ Bletchley Park next week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "I genuinely believe that technologies like AI will bring a transformation as far-reaching as the industrial revolution, the coming of electricity, or the birth of the internet. Now, as with every one of those waves of technology, AI will bring new knowledge new opportunities for economic growth, new advances in human capability and the chance to solve problems that we once thought beyond us."

In contrast, AI is still at the experimentation stage in the UK, despite the predictions made by the tech industry. Only 10 percent of have a sizeable AI implementation, and just 21 percent of UK organisations have an AI policy in place. Some 37 percent have no current plans for a policy.

However, some are making a start in the field. Almost half of organizations in the UK (around 48 percent) polled are piloting AI or have a small-scale project on the go. That figure falls to a third when it comes to generative AI. Tech leaders’ concerns include data privacy, cited by 36 percent of respondents.

Despite the lack of investment, Bev White, CEO of Nash Squared, said more significant adoption of generative AI might be just around the corner.

"Over the years, there has been much hype about the potential for AI, but this year our research suggests we may have reached a tipping point. AI sits at the intersection of people and technology, and with the recent mass adoption of generative AI, the opportunities and challenges for organisations is potentially vast. It could be the trigger that prompts an avalanche of AI investment – similar to the mass adoption of cloud over the last ten years," she said.

White argued the prospect makes the regulation and governance of AI more important than ever.

"Despite their keenness, many tech leaders admit that they don’t have a clear picture of the way forward and feel unprepared for the challenges ahead. Establishing clear guardrails, guidelines and ethical safety nets around AI is simply essential. Otherwise, what could be one of the truly transformational enablers of the modern age could instead become one of its biggest, risk-laden destabilisers," she said.

In July, Gartner told us user businesses were not spending on AI in a big way. John-David Lovelock, distinguished vice president analyst, said that "when it comes to the apps area, AI in one sense is consumingly the most interesting thing going on, and alternately, the least important thing in the way of IT spending." ®

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