Need more budget for artificial intelligence projects? Point out what the competition may be doing

More than two-thirds of executives, 67%, fear their competitors are further along with 'deep-tech' solutions, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

One can be forgiven for thinking that everyone in the world is adopting sophisticated, next-gen technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, and their company is falling woefully behind. While it's more the case of everyone trying to find their way with still yet-to-be-fully-understood technologies, this fear of falling behind is real, and is driving investment. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the word from a survey of 200 enterprises from Seeqc, which finds rising investment in deep-tech solutions is largely driven by the threat of industry competition, with substantial R&D budgets and jobs on the line. More than two-thirds, 67%, fear their competitors are further along than their company. 

That's certainly a way to get the full attention of business leaders controlling the purse strings. 

At the same time, many have high expectations from these investments. Most respondents (58%) said they expect to see ROI from deep tech investments within one to five years. While specific technologies each come with their own implementation timetables, deep tech's impending business impact is accelerating with each dollar spent.

The survey's authors call this "deep tech," which they define as solutions aimed at substantial scientific or engineering challenges to previously intractable problems. (In other words, it has artificial intelligence written all over it.) Along with AI, this category includes solutions such as autonomous vehicles, blockchain, and even quantum computing.

The survey finds that decision-makers are under immense pressure and time constraints to source solutions to fast-approaching business challenges. A majority of large enterprises (defined as those with 1,000 or more employees), 57%, are actively investigating deep tech solutions are doing so to solve a specific existing or emerging business problem. I actually like the phrase "deep tech" to describe the constellation of next-generation solutions coming on the scene.

While companies are forging ahead to solve specific challenges, the report also shows they're keeping a close eye on their competitors' progress. Either real or perceived, fear of their peers' progress is a major investment driver. More than a third of respondents said that keeping up with competition was their number one reason for investigating deep tech solutions.

Motivations driving investments in these technologies include the following:

  • Competitors making progress with deep tech and needed to match them 37%
  • Have identified an impending business problem not equipped to handle 28%
  • Want to be on the cutting edge of innovation to solve currently undefined business problems 20%
  • See certain deep tech solutions as key to their long-term business success 15%
  • Skills and people issues dominate executives' concerns as they dive into new technology approaches as well. A majority, 52%, say assembling the right internal team with appropriate technical expertise as their greatest challenge, making this the leading area of concern. .

    Deep tech solutions require up-front investments. Seventy-one percent of companies reported dedicating 15% or more of their entire R&D budget to investigating deep tech solutions, with 16% dedicating more than a quarter of their budgets. Investing large sums requires a great deal of research, forethought, and a willingness to take some risks. Eight-two percent of decision-makers have fears or anxieties about investing and implementing deep tech solutions, the survey's authors report. Another 74% fear making the wrong investment and wasting resources. There's also fear of what could happen to jobs -- 71% fear deep tech solutions will make parts of their business or even jobs obsolete.

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