78% of European companies know what artificial intelligence is. 15% are not clear. And a residual 7% claim they don’t know what it is. This is revealed by the survey of more than 9,000 businesses developed by Ipsos for the European Commission. “The awareness of artificial intelligence is almost universal,” states the document. But it is one thing to know that it exists and another to put it into practice. Of every five companies, two use at least one of these technologies, one intends to use it and two neither use nor plan to do so. In this last group, Spain is placed above the European average. More than half of the companies surveyed (51%) have no intention of jumping on the bandwagon of artificial intelligence. “It is a negative and worrying fact, because it is a pillar of digital transformation and an important competitive advantage point”, warns Pablo Moreno, director of the UNIR School of Engineering and Technology (ESIT).

They do not use artificial intelligence or plan to do so

The study, which is also the first European-wide survey on the acceptance of artificial intelligence by companies, places the origin of these reluctances in the internal barriers that both those who already use tools of this type and those who give up encounter. to incorporate them. The lack of artificial intelligence skills (programming, big data, robotics) in the labor market contributes to the discouragement of 56% of Spanish companies, which are one percentage point below the European average. And the costs of implementing these systems further complicate matters for 66% of national businesses and 52% of Europeans.

“It is evident that the access costs are high, but it is important to consider these investments as soon as possible. For small companies, the challenge is great, so they will have to find allies in this digital transformation, be it in the form of technological partners or of a sector group to distribute costs, ”Moreno reasons. On the other hand, in the case of Spain, 44% of companies identify the complexity of the algorithms and the consequent difficulties in understanding and trusting them as part of the problem. And external barriers such as lack of regulation, data, and public funding, while less decisive, also help curb adoption.

42% of European companies use at least one AI tool

Are we in a position to overcome these obstacles? Moreno is moderately optimistic: “Access to artificial intelligence services is also being democratized. Leading technology companies offer artificial intelligence platforms for use by third parties, greatly reducing barriers to entry. It remains complex, but less and less, and some companies may be surprised at how much can be accomplished with very little. ” In fact, at a European level, the main strategy for the incorporation of these technologies is to opt for some type of outsourcing, either through the purchase of more general platforms (59%) or the hiring of third parties to develop them to measure ( 38%). Only 20% discuss the process with professionals from home.

The pioneers

As for the companies that have taken the step of incorporating these systems, the survey reveals that 42% of European companies would be using at least one artificial intelligence tool (40% in the case of Spain). Process automation, anomaly detection and machine vision are the most widespread tasks, but the differences in this area are minor. “Adoption is still relatively low, with each technology at adoption rates of 13% or less, but this also indicates the diversity of types of artificial intelligence technologies that European companies are employing,” the document added. In addition, each sector has its peculiarities. In agriculture and fishing, for example, artificial vision and autonomous machines are more accepted; while electricity and water suppliers opt for process automation and optimization, which is also the favorite pair of those who manage waste. In finance, on the other hand, the possibility of detecting anomalies and making predictions becomes important.

By size, the most advanced companies are, to no one’s surprise, the largest. On the one hand, they have more resources to tackle these processes; on the other, its potential to benefit from them is greater, since its economies of scale and investment returns are greater. 55% of European companies with more than 250 employees have adopted a tool based on artificial intelligence, compared to 38% of micro-companies. In Spain, medium-sized companies – between 50 and 249 employees – take the lead, with 57%, while small and micro-businesses remain at 28% and 31%, respectively. “Smaller companies may think that this does not affect them or that it is not for them, but in the next 10 years we are going to experience very profound transformations in various sectors, and companies that are not prepared will suffer a lot to compete with those that yes they are. We have also experienced this deeply in the commerce sector, where the traditional commerce that could think that the entrance of the big online platforms did not affect them, and it has affected them in a dramatic way ”, Moreno points out.