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UK construction sector holds high expectation for AI but obstacles are slowing adoption

Jun 20, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

Findings from new research commissioned by global cloud enterprise software company, IFS, highlights the increasing optimism of the construction sector about the potential of AI.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of senior construction and engineering decision-makers at large firms in the UK say that their business holds high expectation for AI, while more than two-thirds (68 per cent) think their industry is ‘adopting AI at a faster pace than others’.

Respondents identify multiple areas where AI will provide benefits. Thirty-one per cent of the survey sample say executive and board expectations of the value AI will deliver are especially strong in terms of enhancing market knowledge, while 29 per cent reference ‘product or service innovation’, and the same percentage cite ‘consistent growth of the business’.

Despite the high expectations, the sector faces challenges in fully leveraging AI. While 76 per cent of leaders report a high level of architectural readiness for AI adoption, concerns about the quality of AI resources, particularly human skills, persist. Over a third (36 per cent) rate the quality of AI skills in their business as merely passable, indicating a gap between AI aspirations and the existing capabilities within their teams. Of equal concern, more than a quarter (27 per cent) say upskilling is not a priority.

The journey towards AI integration is also at different stages across the industry. Thirty-six per cent of firms have developed clear strategies and are seeing tangible results from their AI initiatives, demonstrating the potential benefits of a well-planned approach. Another 31 per cent are in the process of gathering proposals for pilot projects, indicating a proactive stance towards exploring AI applications. Meanwhile, the remaining 31 per cent are still in the research phase, reflecting a cautious yet determined effort to understand AI’s implications.

Despite these efforts, nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents believe it will take one to three years for AI to make a significant impact on their organisations, illustrating the need for patience and sustained effort.

Several obstacles are slowing AI adoption in the construction and engineering sector. Forty-two per cent of respondents identified the fact that their technology landscape is legacy-based as a factor slowing their progress in adopting and deploying AI across their organisation. Forty-one per cent said they were unsure of the potential use cases in their business, highlighting a need for clearer strategic direction.

Kenny Ingram, VP of Construction and Engineering at IFS, said of the findings: “While the enthusiasm for AI in the UK construction sector is clear, our research shows that there are significant challenges to overcome. The legacy technology landscape and the need for upskilling are potential obstacles. However, with a strategic approach and investment in the right resources, these barriers can be addressed effectively.”

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