Future in the balance? How countries are pursuing an AI advantage

Insights from Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, 2nd Edition survey

June 2019

Companies around the globe, boosted by countries’ various strategies, have worked to implement AI practices. Our survey suggests what early adopters have learned—and how leaders can learn from their AI experiences.

WITH leaders increasingly seeing artificial intelligence (AI) as helping to drive the next great economic expansion, a fear of missing out is spreading around the globe. Numerous nations have developed AI strategies to advance their capabilities, through investment, incentives, talent development, and risk management. As AI’s importance to the next generation of technology grows, many leaders are worried that they will be left behind and not share in the gains.

By measuring the global pulse of AI through our State of AI in the Enterprise, 2nd Edition survey, we uncovered four key insights from early adopters in seven countries:

  • There is a growing realisation of AI’s importance, including its ability to provide competitive advantage and change work for the better. A majority of global early adopters say that AI technologies are especially important to their business success today—a belief that is increasing. A majority also say they are using AI technologies to move ahead of their competition, and that AI empowers their workforce.
  • AI success depends on getting the execution right. Organisations often must excel at a wide range of practices to ensure AI success, including developing a strategy, pursuing the right use cases, building a data foundation, and cultivating a strong ability to experiment. These capabilities are critical now because, as AI becomes even easier to consume, the window for competitive differentiation will likely shrink.
  • Early adopters from different countries display varying levels of AI maturity. Enthusiasm and experience vary among early adopters from different countries. Some are pursuing AI vigorously, while others are taking a more cautious approach. In some cases, adopters are employing AI to improve specific processes and products; others are harnessing AI to transform their entire organisation.
  • Regardless of countries’ AI maturity level, we can learn from their approaches. By examining countries’ challenges and how companies there are addressing them, we can glean some essential leading practices. For example, leaders in some countries are more concerned about addressing skill gaps. Others are focusing on how AI can improve decision-making or cybersecurity capabilities.

There are many paths to AI excellence, and success is not a winner-takes-all proposition. Examining early AI adopters through a global lens can enable a broader perspective. By doing so, everyone can take a more balanced approach on their AI-powered journey.

United Kingdom: Betting big on the future of AI

The United Kingdom is an enthusiastic participant in the global AI revolution, with a thriving AI startup scene and £1 billion of government support for industry and academia.1 But what about UK organisations that are already early adopters of AI?

First, there is a strong recognition of the increasing importance of AI and a corresponding near-term investment. Respondents from the United Kingdom show clear enthusiasm, with 45 percent saying AI will be of critical importance to their near-future success. They are backing up this exuberance with investment: 60 percent of respondents expect to increase their AI investment more than 10 percent next fiscal year. This is the highest rate for both of these measures among all countries surveyed (see figure 1). Although only 15 percent fall into the Seasoned category, organisations are feeling the pressure to move faster.

For these organisations to improve their chances of success with AI, they should channel their enthusiasm. And respondents appear to be going big with their approach to AI: They are more focused on undertaking large-scale, transformational AI initiatives than those from other countries. Twenty-nine percent are pursuing only large-scale initiatives; another 53 percent have a mix of focused and broader AI projects. UK companies also rank second in having a comprehensive strategy in place for AI adoption (with 41 percent). This may mean respondents feel the need to be more ambitious with their projects amid intense global competition.

To gain an AI advantage, it is essential to address challenges and risks early. Whereas some in the UK government are worried about legal liability, criminal misuse, and the impacts of autonomous decision-making, respondents have more practical concerns.2 Their top challenges include measuring and proving the business value for AI projects—the highest rate, with 45 percent ranking it a top-three challenge—and integrating AI into roles and functions; 41 percent rank it a top-three.


1 Wendy Hall, “In 2019, despite everything, the UK’s AI strategy will bear fruit,” Wired UK, December 27, 2018;, “World-leading expert Demis Hassabis to advise new Government Office for artificial intelligence,” press release, June 26, 2018. View in article

2 House of Lords, Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence Report of Session 2017–19, “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?,” April 16, 2018. View in article

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