UK business investment in new technologies, such as quantum computing, is set to nearly triple in the next five years, according to the CBI and Accenture Tech Tracker survey.
The survey suggested that the proportion of firms seeking to invest in quantum computing is set to increase from 11 percent today to 32 percent in five years. Though still in its research phase, the technology has the potential to speed up complex calculations – doing in just a few minutes what a computer would take thousands of years to do.
Quantum computing is just one cutting-edge technology that UK businesses expect to fund. About 32 percent of respondents are also set to begin investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
“AI, blockchain and quantum computing are all next on the investment horizon,” said Felicity Burch, CBI director of digital and innovation. “These technologies will be used not only to improve customer experience and reduce costs, but open up new frontiers of innovation, from drug discoveries to drone deliveries. As we move from research to reality, investment in quantum computing is set to leap threefold, and could make possible experiments that are currently too costly and impractical.”
Businesses see these technologies as a way to get a step ahead of the competition, according to the organizations. Firms ranked growing their competitive advantage as the most important reason to invest in new technologies, followed by boosting productivity.
Business interest in quantum computing is growing, according to Zahra Bahrololoumi, senior managing director and lead for Accenture Technology UK & Ireland.
“The rate of investment in emerging technologies is set to accelerate even further over the coming years as technologies such as AI and blockchain start to become more mainstream,” said Bahrololoumi. “Quantum computing is a little further off, however as we can see from the survey, UK businesses are getting excited about its potential and the investment demand is there.”
Investment doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, he cautioned.
“But greater investment doesn’t always equate to greater success,” said Bahrololoumi. “Tech adoption for tech’s sake often yields limited results or value. To make the most of their investment, businesses need to leverage technology, talent and be aligned with business objectives and outcomes. By adopting this approach, they can build an agile system to support the new tech that it needs to thrive not just now but also in the future.”
A clear majority of firms — 80 percent — report they have the facilities and leadership — 69 percent — to innovate. But there are barriers to innovation, with a third — 33 percent — of respondents reporting that their firms don’t maximize the value of the data they generate. And although people are a key part of the innovation process, a third 31 percent of respondents don’t believe their staff have time to innovate.
When considering return on investment for technology investments, businesses are prioritizing customer-focused innovation, measuring customer insight and engagement — 47 percent — and reduced cost — 40 percent.
About 41 percent of respondents are supportive of the regulatory environment that underpins technology investment. However, a slight majority of businesses surveyed are deeply concerned about continued political instability in the UK. Just over half — 51 percent — report that the country’s political environment is stifling innovation and undermining investment decisions.
“While the UK’s regulatory framework is a strength, ongoing political uncertainty risks stifling innovation and undermining business investment in technology, jeopardizing investments that could be worth billions of pounds,” said Burch. “If firms are to continue developing the technology behind quantum computing, robotics and AI in the UK – ending political instability will go a long way to unlocking investment.”