SMEs urged to seize AI opportunities

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An artificial intelligence expert from the University of Lincoln says opportunities in automation and robotics are open to all businesses in Greater Lincolnshire, including SMEs with a low budget.

Professor Marc Hanheide made the point at an event hosted by the Innovation Programme for Greater Lincolnshire last week, to give SMEs an insight into the latest developments in automation.

Presenting at Think Tank in Lincoln, Marc said that opportunities in AI and automation have the potential to transform the way SMEs work and benefit the Greater Lincolnshire economy.

“There are few large businesses in our area, but there are lots of low-entry solutions to introduce robotics for smaller businesses on a low budget, enabling them to get on the road to automation,” said Marc.

“With Lincolnshire being very rural, there are challenges in this particular area but also great opportunities which could have the power to transform certain industries, particularly care and agriculture.”

The event, which was held in partnership with chartered accountants Wright Vigar and insurance brokers Thompson & Richardson, was organised by Sue Cadd, Think Tank’s Innovation Manager.

Sue said: “One of the ways SMEs in Lincolnshire can increase innovation is by introducing AI and automation into their business.

“The University of Lincoln is at the forefront of AI, automation and robotics research. At the Innovation Programme, we want to make sure local SMEs are able to utilise their expertise and work more closely together.”

Professor Hanheide also used his presentation to dispel many of the myths about AI and automation.

He added: “I want to make sure people realise that machine learning of robotics is not the saviour of us all. The success of automation is reliant on big data and if the data is poor or biased then it will learn exactly that.

“Also, people need to be clear that humans will not be out of jobs in the near future. A lot of the worry is about low-skilled jobs, but robots won’t lay bricks any time soon.

“Automation will impact the sort of jobs humans do, but right now, it’ll mainly impact desk-based jobs. Investment banking is at risk as its analyses data, for example.”

The Innovation Programme for Greater Lincolnshire, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the University of Lincoln, provides SMEs with various strands of business support including internships, innovation vouchers, professional business support and proof of concept grants.