NEWS5 June 2024

‘AI champion’ for SMEs proposed as part of UK digital reforms

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UK – The UK government should appoint an ‘AI champion’ to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) improve the way they deploy artificial intelligence (AI), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said today in its call to put “rocket boosters” under digital progress. 


The call is one of four key recommendations in its Digital Revolution report, which outlines a framework for creating a more connected, dynamic and secure future for British businesses.

In addition to appointing an AI lead for SMEs, the report calls for social tariffs for lower-income areas, to help more individuals and small businesses to access broadband services; wireless network infrastructure to be strengthened; and cooperation between government and the insurance industry to create a reinsurance pool that underwrites cyber risk for business. 

“The pace of technological change is speeding up, not slowing down. That’s a fantastic opportunity for business,” said Martha Lane Fox, president at the BCC and chair of the Business Council.

“Our report calls on the next government to put energy into the further modernisation and digitisation of the UK. Not just for the few but, for everyone.  

“We need rocket boosters under high-speed broadband rollout. A fast, reliable and affordable connection is now fundamental for every company. They also need support to deal with cyber security, which is both a daunting prospect and a pressing risk for companies. 

“We need a sustained commitment from all politicians to make sure that the UK – through its amazing businesses – keeps pace in the fast-moving digital world.” 

The Digital Revolution report draws on expertise from businesses large and small, academia, chambers of commerce and think-tanks.  

The report said that while 82% of firms in urban areas say they have reliable broadband, that falls to 56% in rural areas.

It also estimates that 5G technology could be worth £159bn to the UK economy by 2035, boosting productivity and economic development, yet 5G connectivity remains patchy, leaving investors lacking the certainty they need.

“Every company now needs to be digital, and these four areas are the foundations for competitive and productive businesses,” said Priya Guha, venture partner at Merian Ventures and chair of the Digital Revolution Challenge Group.

“They are also areas where the government can play an important role in helping firms. Without the basics of fast broadband, connectivity on the move, and cyber risk protection, businesses won’t even be equipped to start exploring how they can benefit from the exciting world of AI.  

“The ever-changing world of technology is of huge strategic importance to business. Both for their own future, and the future of an innovative economy in the UK where all companies thrive.”