New technology widening gap between world’s biggest and smallest businesses

Robots are offering a good return on investment to the world’s biggest companies REUTERS

Companies investing in robotics, among other digital technologies, are seeing productivity and profits increase, but the cost involved risks creating an even wider gap between the world’s top companies and their smaller rivals, new research shows. According to a report by the World Economic Forum and Accenture based on a survey of more than 16,000 businesses, the bulk of the productivity growth associated with techs such as robotics, AI and big data analytics is currently being driven by the top 20 percent of firms in each industry.

The researchers warn that without broader implementation of new technology, “an ‘industry inequality’ could emerge, creating a small group of highly productive industry leaders and leaving the rest of the economy behind”, with SMEs in particular at risk. According to the findings, cognitive technologies, like AI and big data analytics, offer the highest monetary return, equivalent to around $1.90 (£1.40) per employee for every $1 invested. The study shows that, while the return on investment in new technologies is positive overall, the productivity increase is three times higher when technologies are used in combination.

The research also provided some reassurance on how robots will impact on people’s job opportunities. “Contrary to concerns about such new technologies as AI and robotics process automation causing worker displacement, employment levels for our sample of companies were stable,” the report stated. Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive at Accenture Strategy, said: “Many executives are still unclear how investments in digital technologies impact their growth and productivity. Companies need a clear strategic objective and long-term approach to new technology investments, to understand how multiple technologies can contribute to maximizing returns.”

-Caitlin Morrison

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