2023: A Watershed Year for Artificial Intelligence

There’s no questioning that AI has been ‘the’ hot topic of the year – it was even named the most notable word of 2023 by Collins Dictionary, after use of it quadrupled this year.

Posted on: 03/01/2024

The meteoric rise of AI

The rapid growth of generative AI and LLMs has brought unprecedented attention to AI, leading to huge leaps in public understanding and broadening discussions beyond those with technical expertise. As AI intrigue grows, its potential for business transformation is blossoming. But there are still significant obstacles to harnessing the full potential of AI within a business context and major questions about its adoption — What exactly is AI? Can it be trusted? What impact does it hold for businesses?

It is these questions, and more, that BridgeAI is aiming to address as we move forward into the New Year. Founded by Innovate UK and delivered with partners BSI, Digital Catapult, The Alan Turing Institute, and STFC Hartree Centre, BridgeAI is literally ‘bridging the gap’ between AI developers and potential adopters in a range of industries where AI has great potential, yet adoption is currently low.

This year we’ve been laying the foundations of what AI can offer businesses. As we move into 2024, we’ll be addressing key challenges and opportunities for an AI-enabled business ecosystem in the UK, such as:

Who can benefit most from AI?

Understanding the biggest opportunities for AI is crucial to ensuring it fulfils its potential.

We’ve carried out research to identify 18 high-potential areas for AI transformation across BridgeAI’s four target sectors — transport, construction, creative industries, and agriculture – although BridgeAI supports the wider agrifood sector, this report is focused on opportunities in agriculture specifically. You can read the results in our report here.

Sectors are at drastically different stages of the AI adoption journey. Some need support with AI fundamentals – like identifying feasible use cases or collecting the right data – while others seek expert guidance on technical issues and meeting regulatory standards. What’s needed is a comprehensive, tailored approach to addressing their diverse needs and knowledge gaps.

Can we trust AI?

Reticence about AI in business is often due to the perceived ‘trustworthiness’ of AI, and how to ensure it is used responsibly – including data security, intrinsic bias, and digital Intellectual Property (IP) theft.

As a technology, AI is of course neither morally ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but a reflection of its use, and the external inputs and influences on it. We published a report on the importance of responsible and trustworthy AI practices, highlighting core principles including transparency, safety, fairness, and accountability.

The AI landscape is evolving rapidly — the AI Safety Summit which took place in November 2023, marked the first ever global summit dedicated to the safety and regulation of AI. Developments like the EU AI Act and the imminent launch of the ISO/IEC 42001 standards signal a continual need for proactive business adjustments.

Companies will also need to grapple with policy around the use of pervasive, highly accessible tools like ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot and Google’s newly released Gemini.

Do we have the skills and knowledge to use it effectively?

Businesses face an AI skills gap, encompassing both technical and business know-how. To overcome this, there is a clear need to improve access to training resources, provide funding for implementing AI solutions, and establish a diverse network of talent and know-how.

We’ve provided upskilling support to more than 300 organisations to date, covering areas such as digital transformation and operationalising ethics in AI. We’ve also developed two comprehensive guides detailing AI policies across the world, to help AI pioneers understand the transforming regulatory and policy landscape.

We also recently launched the ‘AI Skills for Business Competency Framework’ in support of the National AI Strategy commitment to identify the skills needed for using AI in a business setting. You can download the initial report.

What’s next?

The pace of evolution is incredibly exciting, but also comes with risks. This makes it ever more important to bring together the brightest and most diverse minds to tackle key challenges. We are now witnessing the beginnings of a budding AI innovation network, and I look forward to seeing this continue to grow and develop into the new year.

If we can address these challenges, perhaps we could see that quadrupling of usage of the word AI in 2023, convert to a quadrupling of usage of the technology itself in the coming years.

If you’re in a business operating in agrifood, construction, the creative industries, or transport, find out how BridgeAI can support you on your AI journey here:

Author: Sara El-Hanfy, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at Innovate UK.

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