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Two in five UK business leaders fear their business models won’t exist in five years’ time

Two in five British business leaders fear their business model will cease to exist within the next five years, according to new research from Microsoft.

The software giant surveyed 1,000 business leaders and 4,000 employees at major businesses across the UK for its latest report on the state of AI adoption.

The research revealed that 51 per cent of leaders do not currently have a formal AI strategy in place and that only 18 per cent of employees are learning new skills to anticipate the rise of AI.

Speaking to NS Tech, Clare Barclay, the chief operating officer of Microsoft UK, described the results as “very concerning”. “Doing nothing is not fine,” she warned. “For impact in the future, businesses need to take action now.”

The report, titled “Maximising the AI opportunity”, found that businesses which are using AI technologies are outperforming their rivals by five per cent. Meanwhile those which adopted an ethical approach to AI are 9 per cent more productive.

Tim Clement-Jones, chair of the House of Lords AI committee, said the UK enjoys a position of “AI innovation”. “As we enter a crucial stage in AI’s development and adoption, the country has a clear opportunity to be a world leader,” Lord Clement-Jones added. “For this, an ethics-backed partnership between business academia and government will be pivotal.”

A 2,200-page report published last week found that the UK could take third place in the global ranking for the AI industry by 2020, behind only China and the US.

Tom Gray, director of Northern Ireland’s Digital Catapult innovation centre, said the UK should look to the Chinese government for “inspiration around driving AI success”.

“It has a clearly stated ambition and AI leadership, with central and local government actively supporting the development of AI, both financial, and with data,” he added. “This approach is behind China’s significant progress with AI, and would put the UK on the right path to continue making its own strong global impact.”