Does the UK lag behind Europe in technology investment?

New research from Dell Technologies has found that businesses in the UK are trailing behind 12 other global countries currently investing in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and other high-performance technologies such as flash storage, required to support many other new technologies and applications.

The report is based on a survey of 3,800 business leaders across Europe, America and Asia and aims to help businesses understand what steps they need to take in order to remain competitive in their markets.

Businesses are in a time when emerging technologies like AI and  the Internet of Things (IoT), fueled by exponential increases in processing power, connectivity and data, will open-up new possibilities, but this research demonstrates that many in the UK aren’t moving fast enough, or going deep enough to overcome common barriers to operating as a successful digital business. Only 25% have ingrained digital in all they do, and 39% don’t know whether they’ll be able to compete over the next decade.

>See also: The UK is the digital capital of Europe: Tech Nation 2017

With only 16% of UK businesses investing in advanced AI, falling behind France (31%), Germany (26%), The Netherlands (17%) and Italy (22%), and when compared with the global average, the UK is behind on current investments in IoT (global 46%, UK 34%), capabilities for application acceleration (global 39%, UK 30%), converged infrastructure (Global 39%, UK 34%), high-performance computer technologies (global 36%, UK 29%) and VR/AR (Global 28%, UK 23%) – there is a clear indication that the UK needs to step up their investment in these technologies to keep pace.

Despite the lack of technology take-up, there is a clear understanding from businesses that in order to advance as an organisation, collaboration across the business is a must. While 87% believe that senior leaders should spearhead the digital change, 89% of UK respondents recommend securing employee buy-in on a company’s digital transformation and values, highlighting the need for a collaborative approach to the adoption of new technologies.

“The results demonstrate that UK businesses are placing less of a focus on investing in sophisticated technologies than not only our European counterparts but also many other global competitors,” said Dayne Turbitt, senior vice president, Enterprise, UK & Ireland, at Dell EMC.

“In a time when the UK is looking to make its own path outside of the EU, there has to be a greater investment in technologies that have the potential to deliver a significant competitive advantage. Greater collaboration within businesses in delivering this change is a crucial step in this process.”

>See also: European tech industry set to receive record $19BN investment

One possible explanation for the hesitance of UK businesses to adopt newer technologies is the uncertainty over the future of their industry. 66% of UK respondents said they were not sure what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry, let alone their employees. This was the highest result in the respondents’ countries, with only Japan feeling the same.

Claire Vyvyan, senior vice president, Commercial, UK & Ireland at Dell EMC commented: “The rate of technology advancement is causing a shift in how people view their roles and industries, perhaps causing some uncertainty as to where to focus their investments as they assess what life will look like for the workforce of the future. They need to accelerate their planning here, looking at what skills will be required to accelerate their adoption of these emerging technologies in the next three, five, even 10 years and start retraining and attracting talent to get ahead of the demand.”

Analytics, big data, data processing and hybrid cloud

The UK surpasses the global average in only two areas; analytics, big data and data processing (global 50%, UK 53%) and hybrid cloud (global 49%, UK 50%).

Despite the current lack of investment from UK respondents, there is a marked increase in the number of businesses planning on investing in the mentioned technologies over the next five years, who aren’t currently.

>See also: Technology dominates Autumn Budget as key to UK’s growth

With only 29% of UK businesses currently investing in high-performance computers, 49% of respondents are planning on investing in the technology over the next five years. These results are more hopeful when compared with our European counterparts France (41%) and Italy (45%) but the UK still lacks behind Germany (59%), the Netherlands (53%), Mexico (62%) and India (56%).

“Businesses in the UK need to understand their competitors in other countries plan on adopting more sophisticated technologies to deliver greater business performance. Home to some great start-ups and innovative technologies, the UK is ideally placed to spearhead the adoption. This research shows what businesses need to undertake to achieve successful digital transformation and it is clear that collaboration throughout the business across all levels is key”, concluded Turbitt.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...