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March 7, 2023updated 29 Jun 2023 2:03pm

AI spending to double to more than $300bn by 2026

Businesses will splash out more money than ever before on AI products and services over the next three years, analysts predict.

By Ryan Morrison

Global spending on artificial intelligence including software, hardware and services for AI-centric systems will more than double between 2023 and 2026 according to the latest forecasts from IDC. This will see it reach $154bn this year and increase to more than $300bn in 2026.

The market for AI specific software is expected to grow at about 27% per year up to 2026 (Photo: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)
The market for AI specific software is expected to grow at about 27% per year up to 2026 (Photo: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

Companies have been incorporating AI for decades but in recent years this has escalated, with increasing spend on tools that have an essential AI component. The IDC Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Guide shows that by the end of this year companies will have spent 26.9% more on AI tools than the same time last year and this rate of annual growth is expected to continue through to 2026.

Some of this will come in the form of spending on generative AI tools, with both Microsoft and Salesforce incorporating large language model-based tools into their customer relationship model offerings. Outside of generative AI the leading use cases come from recommendation engines and virtual customer service agents.

Overall the growth rate between 2022 and 2026 for AI-centric systems will be 27% and only one of the 36 use cases outlined in the report will have a CAGR below 24%. Three of the leading use cases in terms of spending focus on sales and customer services including: augmented customer service agents, sales process recommendation and augmentation, and program advisors and recommendation systems.

The researchers found that they’d see investment from almost every industry and account for a quarter of all AI spending this year. Other cases seeing large spending include optimisation, threat intelligence and fraud analysis. It doesn’t explore the impact of generative AI or large language models.

Media to see largest growth in AI spend

The amount of spending will also vary by industry with the largest investment coming from banking and retail followed by professional services, although the fastest growth in spending on AI will come from the media industry with a five-year CAGR of 30.2%.

“Companies that are slow to adopt AI will be left behind – large and small. AI is best used in these companies to augment human abilities, automate repetitive tasks, provide personalised recommendations, and make data-driven decisions with speed and accuracy,” said Mike Glennon, senior market research analyst with IDC’s Customer Insights & Analysis team.

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The US will be the largest market for AI systems with more than 50% of all AI-centric spend. Western Europe will account for about 20% of global AI spend but will have the fastest growth rates for the period at a CAGR of 30% over the five year period.

China will be the third largest market and have a CAGR of 20% up to 2026. “AI technology will continue to bring empowering effects to users and industry sectors. With the support of pre-trained large models, multi-modal, and other technologies, AI capabilities will be applied to the whole process of production on a large scale, promoting the technology from the concept to large-scale application of landing, said Xueqing Zhang, senior market analyst with IDC’s China Enterprise Research Department.

“In the future, both government-level urban issues and life issues that are closely related to everyone will enjoy the dividends brought by AI technology and eventually usher in AI for all.”

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