eco YouGov Survey Shows That Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Particular Are Reluctant to Use AI

  • 50 per cent of small companies do not use artificial intelligence (AI) and have no plans to do so.
  • SMEs expect the use of AI to result in greater innovative strength (26%) and more satisfied customers (23%)
  • AI Future Tech project by eco Association and Microsoft shows AI in practice

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important key technologies for the digital transformation of business and industry. However, the use of artificial intelligence is still in its infancy at many German companies, as a representative survey of 543 corporate decision-makers conducted by YouGov2 on behalf of eco – Association of the Internet Industry shows. One trend is clear: the fewer employees a company has, the less artificial intelligence is used.

AI use  –  also a question of company size

50 per cent of small companies state that they have not yet started using AI and have no concrete plans to do so. This also applies to a third of medium-sized companies and almost one in five large companies (19 per cent). “Applications and digital services based on artificial intelligence harbour immense potential for companies of all sizes. Companies need to seize these opportunities now and capitalise on them,” says Oliver Süme, Chair of the Board of the eco Association. According to the eco Industry Monitor, AI-supported work could increase productivity in Germany by 0.8 to 1.4 per cent annually. With solutions based on LLMs (Large Language Models) such as ChatGPT, 15 per cent of all work tasks can already be completed faster and with the same quality. And this figure could rise to 56 per cent in the future. 1 Despite this, only 17 per cent of large German companies have currently initiated their first pilot projects with artificial intelligence. Among micro and medium-sized companies, the figure is only 13 per cent. The majority of German companies are in the evaluation phase: this applies to 29 per cent of large companies and 32 per cent of medium-sized companies. In contrast, only 16 per cent of small companies are evaluating the use of AI.

According to the business leaders surveyed, increases in productivity (34 per cent), cost savings (35 per cent) and more efficient use of resources (35 per cent) are the strongest arguments in favour of using artificial intelligence for large companies. Medium-sized companies expect artificial intelligence to strengthen their innovative power (26 per cent) and improve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. “In order to leverage the potential and innovative power of AI for the entire national economy, from corporations to SMEs and small businesses, we need legal certainty and a standardised regulatory framework across Europe, as well as an efficient ecosystem of digital infrastructures and targeted training and information initiatives that spread knowledge about the possibilities and potential of AI,” says Süme.

AI Future Tech project by the eco Association and Microsoft Germany shows AI in practice

In the AI Future Tech project, the eco Association and Microsoft Germany are working together to demonstrate the effects that AI-based solutions are already having on companies’ productivity and efficiency. Using practical AI implementations, for example at Bosch, Otto Group and Boehringer Ingelheim, the AI Future Tech project illustrates how artificial intelligence is being used in various industries and sectors to increase efficiency, reduce costs and develop innovative solutions.

1 Source: eco Industry Monitor, August 2023

2 The market and opinion research institute YouGov surveyed 543 business decision-makers between 24 May and 3 June 2024 on behalf of the eco Association. The results were weighted and are representative according to the proportion of employees per company size, gender, age groups and Nielsen regions. The survey is based on online interviews with members of the YouGov Panel Germany.

42 Per Cent of Germans Still Sceptical Regarding the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence 3