Small firms remain sceptical about next generation technology

Robots at workNew research from AXA suggests that small firms are sceptical about the prospects of technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and driverless cars affecting their workplace in the near future. While more than 40 per cent of small businesses still don’t have a website, the study of 898 firms claims that most of these plan to move online in the next twelve months. If these plans are fulfilled, only seven per cent of UK businesses will remain offline by this time next year. However, just one in five plan to migrate to the Cloud and only six per cent say they expect to adopt smart technologies. Driverless cars, which are set to hit UK roads as early as 2020, have an equally low resonance, as just eight per cent of business owners expect they will travel in one. Businesses were also highly sceptical when it comes to 3D printing. Just two per cent of UK businesses who might use the process expect to see it used here ‘during their lifetimes’.

Eighty three per cent of business owners said that robots would never be able to work in their companies, even in decades to come. AXA called in Professor Martin Smith, a leading academic in the field of robotics, to review responses from the most sceptical occupations – hairdressers and builders.

Robotic assistants possible in our salons and on building sites

The building trade was the least enthusiastic about robotics. The most common objections were that robots can’t drive, operate machinery safely, work in adverse weather or scale ladders, Professor Smith responded to builders: “Robots certainly won’t be replacing tradesmen any time soon. That’s because a building project, say an extension, requires a complex level of multi-tasking that no robot can currently achieve. They could make excellent assistants to tradesmen, however. Robots can and do operate machinery, drive cars, and are even capable of bricklaying to a higher degree of accuracy than a human. Working outdoors or at height wouldn’t present a problem either: robots are employed on deep-sea projects across the world and can even scale sheer walls using suction cups, Spiderman-style!”

Darrell Sansom, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance, commented on the survey’s findings: “We work closely with start ups in the UK’s tech sector, and there is no doubt that these visionary thinkers are leading the world. What we’d really like to see is this excitement and digital ambition reaching other sectors of the economy too. Our research shows that there is still some scepticism among business owners about these technologies reaching their salon, building firm or shop floor. We’re convinced that they will: smart homes, artificial intelligence and driverless cars are developing rapidly, and are set to radically change British society. Those who grab the opportunities first could profit enormously over the coming decades.”

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