The UK & EU Need Cohesive AI Strategies to Maximise Effectiveness, According to CogX Panellists

At CogX 2022 in London, experts and business leaders gathered to discuss the future of AI and attracting talent to work with it. Here are some of the key thoughts on the new strategic outlook needed to realise AI’s potential…

Across numerous talks at the recent CogX 2022 conference, panellists from the likes of BT, Capgemini, PwC, Faculty, and many more had one common thread connecting their views on AI: a new approach is needed to maximise AI’s strategic impact on both business and society.

Whether it’s improving education in AI to nurture the next generation of talent, enhancing consumer trust in AI, crafting a new regulatory environment that stimulates innovation, or improving working conditions to attract and retain key talent; the insights on offer painted a bright future for AI – it’s up to business leaders to make it happen.

Improving Education & Nurturing the Next Gen of AI Talent

It’s clear that AI holds great economic potential, but for Adrian Joseph OBE, Managing Director Group AI & Data Solutions of BT, if we don’t get the right amount of people into academia now, we won’t reap the economic and innovation benefits of AI for a long time to come.

Joseph cited new research from BT that suggested 59% of students didn’t know AI was an option open to them for study. A further 38% thought AI was dull anyway. In response, SURNAME says business leaders have a responsibility to make AI more relevant and build passion around it. We need to better educate leadership about the potential here.

Conor McGovern, VP of Capgemini Invent, agrees, explaining that Capgemini is already trying to inspire schoolchildren to get into tech, and AI specifically, through a variety of outreach programmes to “social mobility cold spots”. This involves bringing schoolchildren into client transformation projects to showcase what working within the technology sector involves.

Programmes like this will help overcome a challenge Joseph identifies: that the average person doesn’t understand AI. Until they do, adoption will only occur at the highest level. But to unlock the innovation potential this technology holds, we must bring it to more people. The market for good data and analytics is fierce, says McGovern. If we manage to embed skills throughout the regions of the UK now, we can help level them up and meet key government targets.

Promoting Trust in Artificial Intelligence

But all of this education would be for nothing if people don’t trust AI, and are therefore fearful of using it, in the first place. Given that AI could help to create superior services for customers in crucial but sensitive areas like insurance, health, and finance, building trust into AI will be pivotal if we are to ensure uptake.

For Marc Warner, CEO & Co-Founder of Faculty, as AI isn’t human businesses need to ensure that a human being is always kept in the loop to maintain trust. We can trust human beings far easier than we can ever trust a machine to take important life decisions for us, so perhaps AI should act as a consultant rather than an active agent.

But there are also ethical considerations to be made. For Caroline Daniel, Partner of Brunswick Group, implementation of responsible AI is considerably lacking in business today. Likewise, NAME of PwC says that a trust network must be involved where long supply chains exist. Perhaps while people find it difficult to trust AI itself, the technology could be used to build more transparency into business operations and make companies themselves more trustworthy instead. It isn’t about trusting AI as opposed to using it as a tool to rebuild trust in an organisation.

For others, it isn’t business that should take the lead on building trust into this technology, but legislators. More oversight is needed. Ashley Casovan, Executive Director of Responsible AI Institute, highlights the work being done in Canada, where the government is working on how to make AI and the ethics surrounding it are fit for purpose.

But on this side of the pond, the EU is currently formulating its own regulatory framework. There’s great potential here for the European market to become a world leader in AI regulation, setting the terms of debate and ensuring other large markets follow suit. Therefore, the responsibility resting on EU legislators is substantial. Getting it right, however, could mean that the European continent becomes the next hub of technology innovation – even surpassing Palo Alto.

Is Europe Home to the Next Palo Alto?

According to Yoram Wijngaarde, Founder & CEO of Dealroom, Europe has now outgrown its image of a continent full of museums and fancy restaurants. Nowadays, it is a centre of tech innovation and for many people it has become the next Palo Alto.

One of the major reasons for this is its interconnectivity – both in terms of network access and transport infrastructure. Not only can workers across the continent connect and work together seamlessly, they can also meet quickly due to excellent infrastructure.

For instance, from Kings Cross St Pancras, London, alone, an individual can reach most major cities within Western Europe within the span of just a few hours – be that via train or plane.

But just because Western Europe is currently undergoing a transformation into the new Palo Alto, it doesn’t mean that finding talent has become any easier. In fact, it has made the market more competitive. The onus on business leaders is now to create more attractive workplaces as a way of attracting talent – and keeping it.

For Jane Reddin, Partner of AlbionVC, some organisations have already succeeded with doing remote working right. GitHub was doing remote working well before the pandemic made it a necessity and making a success of it. Their secret? Never making strategic decisions in remote meetings. Instead, employees meet once a quarter to settle on strategic priorities for the next quarter in person.

What this does is builds a culture of trust that makes it easier to conduct business – and attract talent. Moreover, it helps to promote wellbeing, which in turns leads to greater levels of performance.

When it comes to the implementation of AI within business, trust appears to be key for both attracting the right talent and ensuring adoption among employees and customers.

To truly maximise the potential of AI, it’s clear that European and UK organisations must rethink their strategic priorities to embed trust, foster innovation, and nurture the next generation of talent to utilise the tech. The time is now to seize the opportunity.

Find Out More About Cogx

Find out more about CogX and all the speakers that attended the three-day event right here. And check out the hashtag #CogXFestival22 for more insights from throughout the conference.