A new survey of 430 UK companies has revealed business leaders’ perceptions of artificial intelligence (AI) and how COVID-19 has changed their attitude towards the technology.

The coronavirus pandemic is set to trigger greater investment into artificial intelligence from UK businesses, new research by Fountech.ai has revealed.

The AI think tank commissioned an independent survey among 430 senior decision-makers in UK businesses. It found that only 16 per cent of business leaders are aware of AI being used within their organisation at present.

The majority (53 per cent) of companies admitted they have a very limited understanding of AI and how it can be used. Only 15 per cent of businesses are confident that they have the skills needed internally to implement or take advantage of AI, with this figure standing at just 5 per cent among small companies.

Over two-fifths (44 per cent) of businesses believe that AI is over-hyped and would not deliver much value to their organisation. Micro businesses (57 per cent) are particularly likely to hold this view. Meanwhile, half (50 per cent) of UK business leaders think AI would be too expensive for them to use.

Change in attitude

However, COVID-19 is prompting a change in attitude. Since the start of the pandemic, 55 per cent of UK businesses have begun exploring how AI could improve the product or service they deliver. This figure is highest among small (61 per cent) and medium-sized (66 per cent) businesses.

Fountech.ai’s research also found that 45 per cent of businesses are looking to implement one or more technologies that use AI in the next 12 months.

“There remains a significant knowledge gap when it comes to businesses’ understanding of artificial intelligence,” Nikolas Kairinos, founder of Fountech.ai, said. “Clearly, many still consider the technology to be over-hyped, expensive, and complicated, but this is not the case – often delivered on a SaaS model, AI tools can be used easily and affordably even by small organisations.

“Positively, the pandemic has proven to almost every business why they must invest in technology. In the wake of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, our research shows that more companies are evaluating how digital solutions like AI can improve what they do and how they do it. This is a welcome development, given the huge value AI can provide for businesses in everything from R&D and employee training through to marketing and sales.”

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