The UK government this week released its Industrial Strategy white paper detailing its plans to drive economic growth and increase productivity across the country. Unsurprisingly, technology and specifically artificial intelligence play a major role in achieving those goals.
In addition to pledging to raise technology R&D funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, the government proposes another round of investment in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (£725m), with £33m earmarked for “immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality,” and £20m for next-generation services powered by AI and data analytics. According to the report, UK service sectors need to be primed to take advantage of these technologies. “Pioneer funding will help service industries to identify how the application of these technologies can transform their operations. This will help to set UK service industries at the forefront of developing and using innovation.”
The white paper comes on the heels of a previously released report from the UK Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on the country’s potential to become a worldwide leader of AI development and innovation. The report made 18 specific recommendations — including improving access to data, establishing of a UK AI Council, creating a national AI institute for the UK at the world-renowned Alan Turing Institute, and implementing new efforts to build-up AI skills nationwide – that if implemented could potentially add £630bn to the UK economy by 2035.
Positioning the UK as a future center of AI innovation is a commendable national goal, especially the emphasis on educating, skilling and re-training the human workforce to work with and alongside AI and cognitive tech. The UK government rightly believes future investments must be plotted out in order to get ahead of current AI trends and surpass them.
Meanwhile, there is also a great need for enterprises and corporations to take advantage of AI to address their own current productivity and growth issues, regardless of the moves made by the government. In this age of digital transformation when all aspects of business are being elevated through tech investment, AI will be critical to close productivity gaps, accelerate growth and remain competitive.
Case in point: IPsoft released findings from a recent survey showing that IT failures are costing UK businesses an estimated £6.9bn in salary costs, the result of employees wasting time and productivity waiting for IT issues to be resolved. The survey also showed that IT issues impacting productivity equate to an estimated £62.4bn in revenue loss.
The survey of 3,000 UK respondents clearly shows a direct correlation between lost employee time and negative business outcomes. For example, in the last 12 months, 58% of respondents had an IT issue that prevented them from providing service to a customer. Additionally, half of the respondents had an IT issue that caused them to miss a deadline, which presumably had an impact on internal projects or external activities.
What’s more, the survey showed a desire among respondents to embrace AI-related technologies to make improvements. Respondents indicated they wanted a simpler way to resolve IT issues, with 66% stating they would use an intelligent agent (such as “Siri”) for such issues. Granted, the survey specifically addressed IT-related support queries, but we know from our conversations with customers that there is a growing desire to embrace automation and cognitive technologies to enhance and improve all kinds of enterprise services (finance, HR, administration etc.), and leverage virtual cognitive agents to improve customer experience.
With Brexit negotiations pending and the UK entering uncertain economic waters, the UK government is wise to detail its view on how tech, innovation and AI will create and sustain economic success. CEOs and business executives need to take some of these ideas to heart as well, and investigate how AI can be embedded into their operations to weather any economic storm and accelerate growth. We expect many business leaders will be doing so in 2018 (if they haven’t already) as they review and prioritize internal productivity challenges and determine the best way forward with AI.