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Mainland Europe now outpacing UK in AI adoption

Study suggests UK businesses have been hit the hardest by industry skills shortages

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UK companies are struggling to keep pace with counterparts across the rest of Europe when it comes to integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their business, new IBM research has found.

Only a third (33%) of surveyed UK organisations have accelerated their use of AI in the past two years, compared with 57% and 56% businesses in Italy and Spain, respectively.

This places the UK well behind the European average of 49%, according to the tech giant’s latest annual Global AI Adoption Index, which identified the AI skills shortage as the main inhibitor of AI adoption.

A lack of available AI skills was cited by 38% of UK respondents, compared with 28% across Europe, with tech recruiters having difficulty in finding applicants with problem solving skills, as well as those skilled in software engineering and programming languages.

This has caused more than a third (36%) of UK businesses to stall their investments in AI over the last two years, compared to 27% of surveyed European companies.

However, it should be noted that the number of AI startups operating in the UK is also disproportionately higher compared to the rest of the world, with the UK being only behind the US in this regard, according to data from Tech Nation.

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The latest IBM report claims that the UK organisations could still catch up with the rest of Europe as more businesses emerge from the pandemic. Almost one in two surveyed UK companies (47%) are exploring using AI. The majority (85%) of UK businesses are also developing or have already developed some kind of AI strategy – only slightly behind the Europe average of 89%.

Commenting on the latest findings, IBM UK & Ireland director of Data, AI & Automation, Ebru Binboga, said that investing in AI could help businesses “overcome challenges such as skills and labour shortages and accelerate innovation”.

“There is clear recognition of the value AI can bring to organisations as they look to address a range of priorities and unlock growth,” he said, adding that IBM has witnessed a “large proportion of UK businesses looking to AI to help them meet ambitious sustainability targets, highlighting the important role AI is playing both for organisations and society at large”.

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