UK business leaders falling behind on addressing AI and automation - PwC CEO Survey

Published at 13:17 PM on 19 January 2017

UK CEOs are lagging behind the rest of the world in addressing how artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will impact their business, according to PwC research.

PwC’s 20th CEO Survey, published at the World Economic Forum in Davos, reveals that nearly half (47%) of UK CEOs say they are not currently addressing the impact of AI or automation on their organisation. This compares to only 31% of CEOs globally and puts the UK  far behind CEOs in Germany (19%), the US (32%) and China (31%) in responding to how emerging technologies will reshape their businesses.  

The survey of 1,370 global leaders, including 120 UK CEOs, reveals that only just over a quarter (28%) of UK CEOs say they are considering the impact of AI on their future skills needs, compared to 39% of CEOs worldwide. And only 38% say they are currently exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together, compared with over half (52%) of CEOs globally. CEOs in Japan and the US are much further ahead, with 62% and 47% respectively, actively considering the positive ways in which humans and machines can work together.

The lack of focus on AI and automation is despite over half (58%) of UK business leaders seeing these emerging technologies as a potential threat to trust levels in their organisation over the next five years..

The survey shows that some sectors are ahead in understanding and addressing how AI and automation will reshape their business. Insurers and banks are leading the way in actively tackling how human and machine will work together, with 75% and 66% of CEOs respectively working on the impacts. Power & utilities (61%), industrial manufacturing (60%) and entertainment & media (60%) closely follow.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, said:

“As the UK negotiates its exit from the EU it is the perfect time for the government and business to work together to position the UK as the place for technology investment and innovation. This means putting in place a flexible regulatory framework, addressing skills shortages, investing in research hubs and supporting start-ups to scale rapidly. All parties have a part to play to create the right environment to build trusted and transparent AI systems to support future economic growth and jobs.”

Jon Andrews, head of technology and investments at PwC, said:

“Emerging technologies are already fundamentally disrupting how we live and work, and their future impact cannot be ignored by CEOs. UK business leaders need to start addressing how AI and automation will impact on their business and workforce, or risk being left behind as the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace.

“There is no doubt that the emergence of AI and automation will shift the balance of work between human and machine. This will mean some jobs changing but also new jobs emerging, such as AI programmers, regulatory development etc.  There will be tasks that are ripe for automation and businesses should respond by up-skilling the people that work in those areas. Skills such as adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, creativity and innovation have never been in higher demand.”


Notes for editors.

  1. The number of CEOs not addressing the impact of AI and automation in each country is as follows: 19% in Germany, 32% in the US and 31% in China.  
  2. For more information, please contact Amy Tiernan, PwC media relations, +44(0)20 7804 0556 or [email protected]


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