Artificial Intelligence

Construction SMEs undecided about impact of artificial intelligence

Despite the significant rise in the profile of artificial intelligence (AI), the UK’s Construction SMEs are largely undecided about the impact it will have on their business, sector and jobs. The findings are taken from the latest independent research* from Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing.

Nearly six in 10 (56%) of respondents are of the view that AI will have a bearing on their business, but are undecided about the scale, with 21% (UK average: 20%) thinking it will have a large impact compared to 16% (UK average: 9%) who say it won’t have any measurable impact.

Q: How much of an impact, if any at all, do you think the increasing presence of artificial intelligence will have on your business?

A large impact 21%
Some impact 35%
Not much of an impact 23%
No impact at all 16%
Unsure 4%

Business owners are split about whether to incorporate AI into their business processes, with 39% (UK average: 41%) saying they will against 47% (UK average: 40%) who have no intention of doing so. The remaining 15% (UK average: 19%) haven’t yet made up their minds.

The key question about potential job losses brought about by AI also divided the crowd, with 43% (UK average: 42%) saying AI will lead to large scale job losses in their sector; 45% (UK average: 43%)  are of the opposite view while 12% (UK average: 15%) are unsure:

  Yes No Unsure
UK total 42% 43% 15%
Manufacturing & Engineering 42% 43% 15%
Food and Drink 42% 40% 18%
Construction 43% 45% 12%
Print and Packaging 52% 40% 8%
Recruitment 40% 44% 16%
Agriculture 38% 48% 13%
Services (e.g. Finance, healthcare, Education, IT) 46% 35% 19%
Transport & Haulage 34% 49% 17%
Wholesale and distribution 39% 46% 15%

While many see AI as a potential threat, more of the UK’s Construction SME business owners see the technology presenting opportunities for growth and employment in their sector than those who do not.

Yes 46% (UK average: 46%)
No 35% (UK average: 36%)
Unsure 19% (UK average: 18%)

The business areas (in order) most at risk from AI – according to respondents – are:

  1. Customer service
  2. Accounting
  3. Operations
  4. Administration
  5. Sales
  6. Marketing
  7. HR
  8. Legal 

Our view

Matt Roper, CEO of Close Brothers’ Commercial business, said: “Artificial Intelligence already impacts us on a daily basis in hundreds of ways, from route mapping to using chat bots to answer questions, and it’s only likely to become more prominent in the coming years.

“Our research is telling us a number of things; firstly, there’s an understandable lack of consensus about AI’s current and potential impact, largely because it’s only gained traction in the public imagination fairly recently. There’s also no agreed definition of what AI actually is.

“Secondly, there’s a recognition that it could present opportunities for firms to use AI to their advantage, particularly in those sectors that are more reliant on digital innovation.

“And lastly, firms aren’t yet sure quite how to incorporate AI into their business processes.”

For a more detailed breakdown or discussion about the results, contact Anton Nebbe, Head of PR and Communications, 07736 286 144,

For more news from Close Brothers Asset Finance, please click here.

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