2.4m SMEs Reluctant to Adopt AI Pose Growth Threat to Next Government

Recent findings reveal that 2.4 million UK business leaders could fall behind in the AI revolution, posing a substantial economic risk to the country.

Data published by Be the Business, the UK’s small business productivity experts, indicates that over half of SMEs are not utilising AI in their operations. Nearly half of these businesses have no plans to adopt or expand the use of AI within the next year.

While 36% of SMEs are using AI sporadically, a significant 52% have yet to attempt its integration. Furthermore, 42% of SME leaders reported no plans to introduce or expand AI tools in the foreseeable future. The primary barriers to AI adoption cited by small business leaders include cost and data security concerns. Additionally, 21% believe AI is not applicable to their business, and 18% see no barriers preventing them from using AI tools.

Be the Business warns that this reluctance, especially prevalent among business leaders over 55 and those outside the Greater London area, represents a critical economic risk and could hinder the UK’s economic progress. The avoidance of AI adoption could lead to a loss of competitiveness, difficulties in attracting and retaining staff, and a decline in productivity. This issue is particularly pressing as the UK’s productivity continues to lag behind other G7 economies.

To address these challenges, Be the Business recommends that the new government take decisive action to support broad-based productivity improvements. Suggested measures include government-led research initiatives to enable SME AI adoption, efforts to increase demand for AI support, and leveraging the UK’s leadership in AI technology.

Anthony Impey MBE, CEO of Be the Business, emphasised the importance of embracing AI:
“The potential impact of AI on the productivity of the country’s small businesses is extraordinary. But if we are to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity posed by this new technology, we must do so wholeheartedly and without hesitation. We must help business leaders overcome the challenges that prevent them from adopting productivity-enhancing tools and ensure that they have the skills to take advantage of them.”

As the UK aims to enhance its productivity and economic resilience, fostering AI adoption among SMEs is crucial. The new government must prioritise initiatives that facilitate the integration of AI technology to ensure that small businesses are not left behind in this technological advancement.

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