Nearly half of UK firms think their business models won't exist in 5 years because of A.I., study says

  • A new report Wednesday found that 41 percent of British companies surveyed said their current business models will cease to exist in the next five years thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).
  • The research also found 51 percent of U.K. business leaders do not have an AI strategy in place.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is changing business fast and many U.K. companies can't keep up.

A new report Wednesday found that 41 percent of British companies surveyed said their business models will cease to exist in the next five years thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). The research, conducted by Microsoft, surveyed more than 5,000 business leaders and employees of large enterprises across the United Kingdom.

It also found 51 percent of the country's business leaders surveyed do not have an AI strategy in place for their organizations.

"Like any change, sometimes it's easier to do nothing than to do something," Clare Barclay, Microsoft U.K.'s chief operating officer, told CNBC in a phone interview last week. "Every business is going to be touched by AI."

The research found 45 percent of employees are concerned their job could be taken by AI, yet 51 percent are not learning skills to help prepare for changes in the workforce. Barclay highlighted the need for companies to view technologies like machine learning not just as a threat but as an opportunity.

"Based on the results we see, leaders need to focus on this AI to make businesses stronger and, in our opinion, not leaner," she said.

The report wasn't all doom and gloom when it comes to the impact of AI on the workforce. Organizations that used AI technology outperformed other businesses on factors like productivity, performance and business outcomes.

It found companies that develop strategies around the ethics of AI are even more productive.

Barclay said technology companies can take a leading role in helping develop safe and ethical AI platforms, for example by ensuring that human bias isn't built into algorithms. Microsoft, like other tech giants including Amazon and Google, is making big investments in its AI capabilities.