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European enterprises are increasing investment in generative artificial intelligence (AI) innovation at the fastest ever rate as they attempt to close the gap on their US-based counterparts.
A global survey of 2,300 senior executives carried out by Accenture shows that generative AI dominates the tech budgets of European companies, with 91% allocating a significant proportion to it this year, compared with 87% in the US.
Furthermore, the number of AI patents filed in Europe between 2016 and 2021 increased by 53%.
The survey found that European countries lag the US in terms of their readiness to “scale-up” their use of generative AI, with 17% ready to do so, compared with 30% over the Atlantic.
While getting data strategies right and building a digital core are the biggest challenges for organisations in Europe and the US, access to talent is a bigger challenge in Europe, with 42% citing a lack of adequate talent as a major challenge, compared with 34% in the US.
To address this, European companies have accelerated their investment in training staff to use generative AI tools in their day-to-day work, with 66% introducing generative AI-specific training in 2023, and 49% offering on-the-job training for employees in use of the technology, according to the findings.
Businesses in Europe plan to increase their budgets for investment into generative AI even further over the next two years, with 94% expecting to allocate a significant or sizeable portion of their technology budgets to it – compared with 91% in North America.
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Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO of Accenture Europe, said: “With 40% of all working hours set to be impacted by large language models like Chat GPT, it’s clear the value this technology has for businesses, their people and customers. European companies are picking up the pace in the Generative AI race, with ‘gen AI’ innovation in Europe experiencing its fastest growth rate yet.”
“To actually extract value from generative AI, businesses require a strong digital core of cloud and data, while ensuring it is implemented responsibly,” he added. “Many European companies are still building their data foundation, however, which is acting as a roadblock to meaningful experimentation. This is an issue that must be addressed.
“It’s not about having a standalone technology strategy ready, though,” said Ollagnier. “It’s about reinventing your business, putting digital at its heart, and designing a deliberate and holistic innovation strategy. This means redesigning jobs and tasks, and supporting people in re-skilling, to ensure the business is well-positioned to embrace AI technology.”
Accenture is investing heavily in AI amid huge business demand for services. In June, it said it will invest $3bn over three years in its data and AI practice, which will include adding 40,000 AI experts to the workforce, making acquisitions and training existing staff. It also created an AI lab in Brussels to develop services across Europe focused on the health, the public sector and NATO.