When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed the capital’s innovators at London Tech Week in June, he was quick to raise the topic of the moment. “AI is surely one of the greatest opportunities before us,” he said. “Already we’ve seen AI help the paralysed to walk, and discover superbug killing antibiotics. And that’s just the beginning.” This general-purpose technology, he said, would fundamentally transform society. “Right now there is an opportunity for human progress that could surpass the industrial revolution in both speed and breadth.”
Amid such grand rhetoric, it’s unsurprising that some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) feel at sea. Is AI relevant to their operation? Is it affordable? What are the risks? And, well, where should they even begin?
“I’m hearing from a lot of SME owners that it's all so fast moving and so huge, it’s causing a deer in the headlights kind of response,” says Melissa Snover, founder of tailor-made nutrition company Nourished. “But really the biggest danger is not doing anything.”
Nourished is part of the WIRED Trailblazers programme, an ongoing partnership with HSBC UK supporting innovative UK businesses as they scale. Many of those taking part are already using the latest wave of AI tools – known as ‘generative AI’ thanks to their remarkable abilities in generating new content – to boost productivity, reduce costs and find a competitive edge. The use cases span everything from conducting research to creating web imagery and writing emails.
Clearly, AI is no longer just for large organisations. In fact, says Snover, one reason there is so much excitement around generative AI is precisely because it’s so accessible. These tools are inexpensive, work out-of-the-box and have natural language interfaces. Ask ChatGPT in plain English to draft a marketing blog or write some code, and it does your bidding. No specialist knowledge or implementation required.