Aug 2, 2016 | By Tess

While most signs seems to point towards the integration of automated technologies like 3D printing into manufacturing businesses, there are some regions and business sectors which are not feeling the enthusiasm of the bourgeoning technologies. As a report published by French multinational insurance firm AXA shows, many small businesses and firms within the United Kingdom are actually skeptical and reluctant about new technologies like 3D printing, robotics, smart homes, and driverless cars.

The findings come from a survey of small business owners across the UK (category 1-9 employees). AXA asked them if they could foresee themselves using various types of technology in their own businesses in the future. The finding on 3D printing was very interesting. "Businesses were also highly sceptical when it comes to 3D printing," writes AXA in their report. In fact, even after the unveiling of a 3D printed house in China last month and a number of other innovative advancements within the field of 3D printing, AXA reported that only 2% of British tradesmen foresaw similar technologies being adopted in their businesses within their lifetime. On a larger scale, a staggering 83% of small business owners said that tech like 3D printing and robots would likely never be integrated into their businesses within the next few decades. Within that scope, businesses within the construction and hairdressing industries were most reluctant about the integration of robotics.

It was not just 3D printing and robotic technologies that faced questioning, however, as only 20% of small businesses interviewed said they would be using the Cloud in upcoming years, and only 6% were cited as expecting to integrate 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 drive one. Currently, more than 40% of small UK businesses surveyed still do not have websites, though most of them are planning to up their online presences within the next year.

83% of business owners said that robots would never be able to work in their companies, even in decades to come. Professor Martin Smith, a prominent academic in the field of robotics, explained the ambivalence and illuminated how next-generation technologies could more seamlessly be brought into sectors like construction. He explains, “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.” (Check out this brick-laying 3D printer for proof!)

In response to the overwhelming disinclination towards new technologies like 3D printing and robotics, AXA has cautioned UK small businesses that skipping out on new advancements could lead to them missing out on a significant competitive edge. Darrel Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, explained, “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.”

Sansom continued to explain that AXA believes technologies like 3D printing, smart homes, AI, and driverless cars will ultimately be integrated and impact the currently reluctant small business sector. “Those who grab the opportunities first could profit enormously over the coming decades,” he concluded.

Whether his predictions will come to fruition remains to be seen, but there is little question that revolutionary technologies like 3D printing, robotics, and smart devices will continue to permeate through a growing variety of industries and sectors and become increasingly viable (and more convincing) the more they continue to progress and develop.

 

 

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