Prospect of artificial Intelligence of limited concern for UK SMEs

The majority of the UK’s SMEs are largely unconcerned about the prospect of artificial intelligence (AI), with the potential of improved productivity seen as a potential major benefit, according to research from Close Brothers Asset Finance.

The results were obtained from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly surveythat questions over close to 1,000 UK and RoI SME owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.

Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance said,

“The potential impact of the rise of artificial intelligence and the so-called fourth industrial revolution have been discussed and debated for some time now. What our survey tells is that 65% of firms feel that AI iseither going to improve productivity or that it’s too far in the future to be worried about.”

“The remaining 35% are more apprehensive, citing ethical concerns and the threat to jobs as their reasons for not being advocates of AI.”

Q.14e Does the prospect of artificial intelligence concern you?

Yes, because it will take jobs13%
Yes, because it opens up a number of ethical issues22%
No, because it is likely to improve productivity29%
No, because I think it’s still too far in the future to worry about36%

Technology and its role in improving productivity
When asked the question ‘do you think better technology leads to more productivity?’, over half (51%) of SMEs believe better technology will result in more productivity with only 25% saying no; the rest are undecided.

Regionally, Northern Ireland (64%), London (63%) and Wales (62%) were particularly positive, while in businesses with a turnover greater than £10m, this rises even further to 70%.

The sector perspective: Do you think better technology leads to more productivity?

UKConstructionEngineeringManufacturingTransportPrint
Yes51%40%63%57%61%68%
No25%35%20%26%21%19%
Not sure24%25%17%18%18%13%

Technology spend
Most SMEs (61%) are comfortable that their technology is up-to-date, with 22% admitting that it is not, while the remaining 17% are ‘unsure’.

Neil said,

“With cashlow a constant concern for businesses, investing in technology is a key decision. Firm owners understand that employee expectations are rising and that technology can provide competitive advantage; however, this comes at a cost.

“28% of SMEs update their technology every two years, while 23% do this annually. 6% of companies never invest.”

Laptops and desktop computers – combined – account for nearly half of companies’ technology spend, with software third at 18%.

Q: What is your business’s biggest technology spend?

Phones13%
Laptops25%
Desktop PCs24%
Software18%
Don’t know22%

Q: On average, how regularly do you upgrade your business’ technology?

Annually23%
Every 2 years28%
Every 5 years18%
Every 10 years2%
Never6%
Don’t know23%

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