Why investing in AI is one of the biggest commercial opportunities for businesses

According to a recent PwC report, the UK’s GDP will be up to 10.3% higher in 2030 as a result of artificial intelligence (AI) – the equivalent of an additional £232bn

This makes investment in AI one of the biggest commercial opportunities in today’s fast-changing economy.

However, recent Deloitte data reveals that while 82% of the UK’s large businesses are pursuing some form of AI initiatives, only 15% can be considered ‘seasoned’ or mature AI adopters – lower than the US (24%), Germany (22%), Canada (19%), Australia (17%) and France (16%).

Invest in AI talent nationwide

In this competitive international market, creating a favourable business environment for AI and investing in AI skills programmes is key for ensuring the long-term success of the UK’s national AI strategy. While the UK has a thriving AI scene, it’s important to ensure it continues to grow and that investment in AI is proportionally distributed across the country, both to make the most of existing AI talent and to encourage new talent development.

Although 80% of the UK’s top 50 AI start-ups are based in London, some notable AI success stories came from outside of the capital. Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Edinburgh have produced successful businesses powered by AI and data analytics. For instance, DeepMind came out of Oxford in 2010, was acquired by Google, and is now a leading AI company.

Up-skill your employees 

As a spinout of the University of Oxford, Diffblue is another example of an AI start-up from outside of the capital. We are very fortunate to have a pool of talent from varied backgrounds, but even in Oxford, there isn’t an abundance of readily available AI experts. Many businesses in the UK are facing a similar challenge when it comes to recruiting employees with AI skills, and universities cannot yet produce enough AI developers and software engineers to meet the growing demand for AI talent. Demand is only going to increase in the years to come.

Where to invest for maximum reward 

For the UK to be a global hub for AI, we need to address this challenge. The government and the private sector can encourage the growth of the AI industry in the UK by investing in two key areas:

  1. Technology that can overcome the growing technical skills gap. In addition to a shortage of AI skills, the UK is short of software engineers in general. Using AI to help automate some of the steps in the software development process can be an effective way for businesses to make better use of existing talent, bring products to market quickly, and drive technological innovation (AI and otherwise). While many tools that assist with software development are still very new, some of the UK’s existing AI technology could be more widely adopted by companies with software development initiatives. At Diffblue, we are currently working with developers to automate the writing of unit tests, and we are also exploring other areas in the software development lifecycle where AI can be used to speed up and improve elements of human coding. 
  2. Training programmes to upskill and reskill existing employees and those from non-technical fields. There aren’t enough university places in AI programmes to provide the training the UK needs, so companies need to tackle this challenge themselves. At Diffblue, we started investing early in hiring talented computer scientists and developers who may not have ever worked in AI before, and training them to work with our AI engine. We expect that new team members will spend three to four months learning the inner workings of our technology before they can actively contribute to new development, but the investment has been worthwhile. We encourage other businesses to follow suit and build effective training programmes to re-skill their teams.

Investment in these areas will help create an agile workforce that meets the industry’s needs while maximizing current resources, ultimately helping the UK reach its potential as a new global hub of AI talent and technology.

About the Author

Daniel Kroening, Co-founder and Chief Scientist at Diffblue. Specialties: Model Checking, Automated Program Testing, Program Analysis, SAT, Formal Verification, Embedded Systems

Featured image: MARIJA RTARCEVIC