Published 23. Oct. 2017

Mapping the AI investment landscape in the Nordics


Our trend report – “Future of Business: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics” – gives a broad insight into the present AI investment landscape in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.

When we talk about AI in business intelligence today, we are referring to technologies within the ‘AI family’, such as machine learning, natural language processing, image and voice recognition or robotic process automation. These and more technologies are enabling businesses to transform and adapt processes and structures in alignment to a changing consumer environment.

Top investment priorities in the Nordics to date are robotic process automation (RPA), closely followed by AI-enabled business models and services and machine learning (ML).

These technologies are having the biggest impact within financial services, manufacturing and retail industries. IT departments are spearheading AI and robotics investments, followed by top management and line management, finance and business development.


Scalability and efficiency with RPA

RPA solutions offer consistency on a large scale, more control over systems, data and processes, and less risk of human error. Put shortly: they increase efficiency and quality.

RPA has taken precedence in financial services (62%) and manufacturing (46%) in the Nordics – especially in Denmark, where RPA is prioritised by 64% of respondents.

The strength of RPA in automating end-to-end processes has also placed this solution at the forefront of investments for decision-makers in finance, IT, customer care, marketing and sales, business development, as well as top and line management.


Transforming business models – staying ahead of the game

Business models and services are increasingly being shaped around AI solutions in order to keep up, and more importantly, stay ahead of evolving supply and demand cycles.  More than two thirds of Swiss executives have made these solutions a priority.

Once again, the financial services sector stands out throughout the Nordics (53%), in part exemplifying a sector’s transition from traditional business models – most notably banks – to structures more aligned to changing customer demands.


Crunching consumer data

Machine-learning systems are able to analyse large, complex sets of data with minimal human input, towards generating fast and accurate results; ML software gradually ‘learns’ to improve output over time, without having to be explicitly programmed to do so. These solutions are prioritized relatively evenly across Nordic businesses.

ML presents a valuable tool for the retail sector: crunching a large volume of data can help enrich, tailor and generally improve consumer-facing processes, help generate accurate forecasts or even enhance productivity and sales. These applications further serve as enablers for virtual assistants and bots, which are another investment priority for the retail industry.


Zooming out to the global: a future of giants?

The rapid increase in AI spending makes it difficult to dismiss AI solutions as merely hype – both in the Nordics and globally.

Venture capital is flowing towards AI start-ups, which again are being eaten up by tech giants such as Google and Apple, keen on staying ahead of the game and scrambling to secure a pool of AI-talent. This begs the question of where smaller companies will fit in, in an environment currently dominated by wrangling giants.

The Nordics are no exception, with AI start-ups gradually gaining momentum – particularly in the fintech sector. One in ten investments in the Nordics is now made in fintech, according to KPMG, with Sweden taking the lion’s share of 32 out of 51 fintech investments (The Nordic Web).


Machine learning software for the win

Globally, the high tech, financial services and telecom sectors are the leading adopters of AI and will most likely continue to spearhead AI uptake over the next three years, according to McKinsey Global Institute. AI advisory service Tractica pinpoints image recognition, algorithmic securities trading and healthcare patient data management as key areas that show ‘’ huge scale potential’’ over the coming years.

Machine learning is currently emerging as the ground-breaking AI-technology, accounting for the majority of last year’s external AI investments, including corporate acquisitions and private-equity funding. This is most likely driven by ML software’s potential as an enabler for other technologies such as smart robotics, natural language processing or virtual agents.


The early bird…

We are still observing the early, albeit fast-paced beginnings of AI across industries.

While spending on AI is expected to accelerate rapidly, adoption of AI remains limited. A McKinsey’s survey of more than 3,000 businesses around the world found that many executives were unsure about the specific benefits of AI for their business, how to access AI-solutions, how to integrate these technologies and how to assess return on investment. McKinsey also highlights that Europe is also falling behind the US and China, which presently dominate the AI landscape.

Businesses and governments alike – in the Nordics and worldwide –  are presented with an opportunity to foster and consolidate technologies that are already driving fundamental changes in the global economy. Those acting now stand the best chance of success.

After all: the early bird catches the worm.

Download our full AI and Robotics trend report