17 Jun 2024
by Usman Ikhlaq

Event round-up: Putting AI into Action webinar on 'AI readiness'

Read the summary of the first webinar of our Putting AI into Action series, looking at the opportunities, challenges, and potential solutions related to AI adoption for UK businesses


  • Usman Ikhlaq – Chair and Programme Manager for Artificial Intelligence, techUK
  • Richard Ward – Director of Government Affairs, IBM
  • Varun Sarin – Managing Consultant, Credera
  • Iain Mackay – Director of AI Safety and Government, Faculty


The webinar focused on the opportunities, challenges, and potential solutions related to AI adoption for UK businesses, and highlighted how AI can support businesses on their AI adoption journeys.

Opportunities, challenges and solutions

Opportunities: why should AI matter to businesses?

  • Business advancement
    • AI can significantly enhance productivity in both public and private sectors.
    • AI applications in customer support improve efficiency by training models with internal data.
  • Interaction with the technology itself
    • The use of AI can transform how businesses create websites, search for information, and design customer experiences (e.g. generative AI).
    • Despite high expectations, AI projects often fail to reach their full potential due to difficulties in measuring success and distinguishing between hype and real value.
  • Business performance and job satisfaction
    • AI helps reduce repetitive tasks, aligning job roles with skill sets and enhancing job satisfaction.
    • AI impacts various sectors, including healthcare, retail, and consumer services, by optimising tasks and personalizing marketing efforts.

Challenges: what are the most pressing AI adoption barriers?

  • Data quality and governance
    • Organisations often struggle with data collection, maintenance, and ensuring its accuracy and relevance.
    • Data governance issues include managing privacy, intellectual property, and security concerns.
  • AI skills gap
    • Many government bodies and businesses lack the right skill sets to leverage AI solutions and struggle to attract and retain AI talent.
    • There is a need for comprehensive AI training for both technical and non-technical staff, particularly for young professionals at the start of their careers.
  • AI safety and trust
    • AI introduces novel risks, such as privacy concerns, model biases, and issues with explainability and reproducibility.
    • Building trust in AI systems is critical, with a need for robust governance and safety measures.

Solutions: What can be done?

  • AI governance
    • Organizations need to implement robust data governance structures and ensure data accuracy to prevent biases in AI models.
  • AI literacy and skills development
    • Upskilling and reskilling the workforce are crucial, with a focus on both technical capabilities and AI literacy across the organisation.
    • Bringing everyone along on the ‘AI journey’ is important.
    • Understanding AI jargon and developing transferable skills, such as prompt engineering, are vital for maximizing the benefits of AI solutions.
    • Graduates should gain sector-specific AI expertise to identify and implement new use cases.
  • Responsible AI policies
    • Businesses should start with clear business requirements and processes, incorporating AI solutions that address specific issues.
    • Ensuring AI systems are safe and appropriate for their specific context and use case is essential.
    • Collaborating with government to support responsible AI deployment and address broader societal impacts is crucial.

Industry and government collaboration

  • Business leadership
    • Economic growth should include increasing productivity through technology.
    • Understanding where businesses seek help and advice is crucial for effective AI adoption.
  • Experience matters
    • Learn from those who have successfully deployed AI solutions.
    • Break down AI deployment into manageable steps, ensuring privacy and bias controls are in place.
  • Thought leadership
    • Identifying valuable use cases and embracing uncertainty can provide a competitive advantage.
    • Use a step-by-step approach to unlock value and address underlying blockers.

Recommendations for the next Government

  • Delivery and execution
    • Integrate AI policies into plans for economic growth and productivity.
    • Foster collaboration between organizations and government to drive AI adoption.
  • Skills and education
    • Focus on helping young people gain relevant AI skills through education and training programs.
    • Lower technological barriers to entry to enable broader participation in the AI workforce.
  • Trust and safety
    • Continue efforts on AI safety and expand public understanding of AI technologies.
    • Provide specific guidance to ensure AI solutions are safe, compliant, and beneficial to society.


Usman Ikhlaq

Usman Ikhlaq

Programme Manager, Artificial Intelligence, techUK