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Two-thirds of businesses do not have skills to adopt AI

Despite the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), only a third of businesses say they have the necessary skills to adopt the technology

A lack of relevant skills could stand in the way of companies adopting new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), according to research.

A study by CBI has found only a third of firms believe they have the skills and capabilities needed to adopt AI, despite 49% of businesses saying it will completely transform their industry or market.

With AI encompassing data-led technologies, such as predictive text, deep neural networks and autonomous systems, 23% of businesses said these technologies are already having an effect on their sector, and 37% they would see an impact in the next five years.

It is not just the technology industry that is suffering from skill gaps, with more than 40% of people not having the digital skills needed for most jobs, and jobs in all sectors in need of people with digital skills for non-tech roles.

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said while the UK should be a leader in technology adoption, a lack of skills or other factors can often make firms fall behind.

“Gene editing, space tourism, self-driving vehicles, robotic limbs, floating farms, London to Sydney in four hours – innovations like these will shape the course of the next decade and many will improve lives across the globe. It’s up to business, government and employee groups to make sure the UK economy leads from the front,” he said.

Many specialisms in the technology sector are increasingly in need of trained workers, including the big data space, the cyber security space and the cloud space.

Blockchain and the internet of things (IoT) are also pegged as two technologies that are set to be most adopted over the next five years, with 11% of firms thinking blockchain is already affecting their sector, and 54% said the same of IoT.

But adoption of these technologies relies on a number of factors, including concerns surrounding security, and a lack of skills.

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  • The UK is at risk of being left behind when it comes to artificial intelligence advances, with the current shortage of AI skills likely to get a lot worse.
  • Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer, told a House of Lords select committee that artificial intelligence could stoke government productivity in areas of “low-level decision making”.

The government has already launched an enquiry into the skills that will be needed in the UK to cope with an increasingly technical future, and CBI called on the government to take further action and establish a joint commission for the beginning of 2018 to look at how these technologies will impact people and jobs.

Minister of state for digital, Matt Hancock, said: “Alongside our independent review into artificial intelligence last week, our ambitions are aligned on the need to embrace the opportunities of the digital revolution.

“In our manifesto, we committed to establishing a data use and ethics body, which would work with industry to answer some of the vital questions on the impact of big data and artificial intelligence, and so create the right conditions for digital businesses to thrive.” 

Digital transformation, including the adoption of technologies such as AI, blockchain and IoT, is high on the agenda for many firms, but 65% of decision makers say a lack of skills is standing in the way of adopting digital technologies.

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