According to a recent IBM-commissioned study, UK companies with over 1,000 employees lag behind leading Asian economies in AI adoption.

The research reveals that 37 percent of such UK enterprises have actively deployed AI, trailing behind India (59 percent), the UAE (58 percent), Singapore (53 percent), and China (50 percent). Despite this, 40 percent of UK enterprises already experimenting with AI intend to ramp up their investments in the technology, showcasing a proactive stance.

Drivers and Challenges of AI Adoption

Michael Conway, Partner and Data, AI & Transformation Leader at IBM Consulting UK & Ireland, highlighted that the integration of AI into business applications, the need for process automation, and accessible AI tools drive its adoption at an enterprise level. However, limited AI skills, high costs, and data complexity continue to impede its adoption.

The study reveals that 37 percent of large UK enterprises have actively deployed AI, with an additional 41 percent exploring its use. Notably, 32 percent of UK IT professionals report active implementation of generative AI, and 46 percent are exploring its applications. Compared globally, the UK ranks mid-tier in enterprise-level AI adoption, trailing behind leading markets like India, China, Singapore, and the UAE.

Accelerating AI Investments

Approximately 40 percent of UK companies already experimenting or deploying AI have accelerated their investments in the past two years. However, compared to other markets like China, India, and the UAE, the UK stands behind in AI acceleration.

Factors propelling AI adoption in the UK include enhanced accessibility of AI tools (51 percent), the necessity to streamline processes and reduce costs (37 percent), and the integration of AI into standard business applications (36 percent). Increased availability of AI, data, and automation skills and easier deployment of solutions are noted as critical changes in recent years.

AI Use Cases and Barriers

AI adoption among UK enterprises spans various operational areas, including IT process automation, security, human resources, analytics, fraud detection, customer service automation, and marketing. However, limited AI skills, high costs, data complexity, and integration challenges persist as primary barriers hindering successful AI adoption.

The study highlights that nearly a quarter of UK organisations lack employees with adequate skills for new AI tools, while 19 percent face challenges in hiring skilled personnel. Only 32 percent are actively reskilling or training their workforce to adapt to new AI and automation tools.

While UK IT professionals acknowledge the importance of transparent and ethical AI practices, barriers hinder the practical implementation of these ideals. Despite the understanding that consumers prefer services from companies with ethical AI practices, less than half of UK companies are actively taking steps towards ensuring ethical AI, reducing bias, tracking data provenance, or developing ethical AI policies.