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HR among top sectors to benefit from government AI grants, data reveals 

HR organisations have received an average of £300,000 each to invest in AI innovation - ©Chanelle M/peopleimages.com/Adobe Stock

HR organisations are among those benefiting most from government grants for adapting to AI innovation, research has revealed. 

SAS, an AI and analytics software provider, analysed data from the government-funded agency, Innovate UK, to find out which sectors had received grants for innovation between 2020 and 2023. 

The research found that eight HR organisations had secured more than £300,000 each, on average, to invest in AI innovation. 

This placed HR as the fourth highest ranking sector for the value of grants received in the UK. 

Prathiba Krishna, AI and ethics lead at SAS UK and Ireland, said this indicates businesses need support when it comes to implementing AI within their organisation.  

She said: “AI and machine learning are transformative technologies – and organisations are using them to develop innovative solutions that could address many of the big challenges we face today. 

“However, this research highlights the sheer volume of businesses that have opportunities to leverage AI but need further support from government grants to fulfil their potential.” 

Research from the HR technology firm Personio last July revealed that 78% of HR professionals aged 25 to 34, and 69% of people aged 55 and over, are already using an AI tool at work. 

Read more: AI will affect 40% of jobs, IMF says

Stephanie Coward, managing director of HCM, Iris Software Group, told HR magazine that AI could change HR practices from recruitment through to talent management and beyond. 

She said: “The transformative impact of AI on HR is undeniable, reshaping training strategies, enhancing recruitment, and serving as a cornerstone for increasing employee engagement. 

“Additionally, AI's predictive analytics tools offer invaluable insights into workforce trends, facilitating pre-emptive talent management and efficient succession planning.” 

Coward added that AI would allow HR to focus more on employee experience than administration. 

She continued: “AI facilitates the automation of routine tasks, freeing up HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives and personalised employee experiences.” 

Chris Pedder, chief data officer at Obrizum, said that HR could use AI to help upskill their current workforce. 

He told HR magazine: “Given the ongoing skills gap and challenges in recruitment, HR departments should be looking for ways that AI technology can help to upskill their current workforce so that it is built to meet modern demands.  

“Similarly, trying to future-proof workforces by looking to skills of the future is a valid use of machine learning technology.” 

He added that implementing AI in HR to bridge the skills gap would require a mix of learning and development, as well as HR.  

He continued: “In the short term, to allow HR teams to get a feel for AI solutions, it would make sense to allow them to access the new breed of generative AI tools.  

“That way, they can be enabled to create sensible policies for their use and also overcome their concerns or misgivings about the technology.” 

Read more: Head of AI roles tripled since 2018

However, John Paul Caffery, CEO and founder of talent acquisition platform, Ramp Global, warned HR against investing in the newest AI technology. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Instead of throwing constrained spend at the latest AI tech in the market, HR teams need to consider where they’re currently investing in technology and where some of their suppliers have AI roadmaps. 

“Through looking at existing systems and processes, you can spot where AI exists and where technology needs replacing.  

“Additionally, having consultants on hand for the transition to a more AI-driven environment is going to give organisations the level of expertise needed to adopt it as effectively as possible.” 

SAS looked at data on Innovate UK-funded projects that were included in the AI, data economy and innovation sectors between 2020 and 2023.