by Miguel Martinez, Co-founder and Chief Data Scientist, Signal AI
Widespread use of AI is inevitable, but businesses will only unlock its true potential by focusing on integration and education across the organisation.
We are currently living through a new industrial revolution. One in which artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) permeates all industries and sectors of our economy, enhancing the impact and value of businesses worldwide. The UK has acknowledged this, and consequently is heavily investing in these technologies.
But despite numerous successes, there have also been many failed AI projects that simply did not provide the expected return on investment. In many cases, the reason behind these failures are mismatched expectations and the overselling of the capabilities of AI. Businesses must be better informed and trained to understand the limitations and expectations of what can be achieved when harnessing AI to solve their problems. So there needs to be a shift in mindset in the business world when it comes to AI, and widespread education of how and when to integrate tech solutions. Identify a problem first, then find the right tech to solve it.
Primarily, businesses and their leaders need to understand the difference between the outstanding breakthroughs – many coming from the UK – in the academic community, and the (sometimes even more complicated) process of integrating those models and ideas into real production systems. This will allow us to build better AI strategies and products and explore alternative solutions that will, in return, provide a greater value.
One of the key elements to consider when investing in, and implementing, AI solutions is the internal requirement of an incredibly skilled and specialised workforce. As more and more businesses integrate AI into their systems, the demand for data scientists, data engineers, and AI-knowledgeable product managers, is soaring. And this is a trend that is not likely to slow down any time soon. Unfortunately, we have historically failed to train as many highly skilled workers as we need in the UK. And given the current political climate, it is likely that attracting foreign talent will become even more complicated, at least in the short term.
On a more positive note, many companies are already exploring how best to circumvent this issue, some by having a remote workforce. Other businesses are opening offices around the world to have access to Europe and beyond, and the wider talent pool it supplies. Each of these approaches has its benefits and drawbacks. One or the other, or a solution found somewhere between the two, will suit the businesses forced to adapt to survive. But one fact is certain: AI is one of the critical areas of innovation that will allow UK businesses to be leaders in their respective industries. However, it will only be possible with access to the right skill-sets to implement these tech solutions and reap the benefits in full.
Another way to ensure future success is to build the necessary bridges now, between the business world and academia. The UK has some of the best universities and researchers in the world, and in order to remain competitive, we need to form and strengthen partnerships between those conducting groundbreaking research and those integrating the fruits of academic labour into their production systems. Several governmental programmes, such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP), have been designed to address this challenge. I strongly believe in any initiative that allows this cross-pollination of knowledge and know-how, and that facilitates the application of current research and cutting-edge principles within organisations to provide tangible value. At Signal AI we have undertaken multiple KTP projects ourselves and are active in the academic community, drawing talent and inspiration to inform our product strategy and offering.
Ultimately, AI and technological solutions that truly augment our work, businesses, and lives, are inevitable. To be a leader in 2020, let alone 2030, we have to embrace these and nurture this mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship between businesses, highly skilled talent, tech providers and academia, enabling you to unlock the true potential of AI and maximise the impact it has on your organisation.
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Miguel Martinez, Co-founder and Chief Data Scientist, Signal AI