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Government-commissioned research led by University of Sheffield will help law and accountancy firms adopt new technologies

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

  • Research project will help mid-sized law and accountancy firms adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies – helping to improve the productivity and prosperity of cities and regions across the UK
  • Sheffield University Management School-led project is one of three successful bids to the Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund Next Generation Services call

A major new research project led by the University of Sheffield will help mid-sized law and accountancy firms adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve productivity.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Tim Vorley from the University of Sheffield’s Management School, is one of three successful bids to the Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund (ISCF) Next Generation Services call.

The research, commissioned by the UK government, will focus on helping people adopt new technologies.
Professor Vorley will lead a team of colleagues from the University of Sheffield; Lancaster University; Manchester Business School; The University of the Arts, London; as well as non-academic partners the Managing Partners’ Forum and Normann Partners.

The project, Innovating Next Generation Services through Collaborative Design, will focus on firms that are cautious or uncertain over how to implement technological change.

Rather than focusing solely on new technologies, the research will involve exploratory prototyping of solutions designed in collaboration with firms to enable a rapid generation and assessment of potential future applications of artificial intelligence across businesses. This is critical if adoption within sector firms is to be broadened.

The services sector accounts for almost 80 per cent of the UK economy, with professional services the largest sub-sector representing 11 per cent of GDP.

Professor Vorley said: “Understanding the transformative potential of AI involves looking at individual firms, the outcomes provided to clients, and the business processes and predictions that are deployed.

“Our project will focus on understanding the technological and behavioural barriers facing mid-sized legal and accountancy firms, and suggesting potential solutions, as this is the segment where intervention will have maximum impact on the continued success of the overall sector.”

Dr Chay Brooks, a co-investigator at Sheffield University Management School, added: “The adoption of AI will have a transformative impact on professional service businesses. Given the emphasis in the Industrial Strategy on the place agenda, our work focusing on mid-tier legal and accountancy firms is important for the productivity and prosperity of cities and regions across the UK.”

Richard Chapin, a co-investigator from the Managing Partners’ Forum. said: “The potential of AI remains hypothetical unless and until the leadership team at a firm has the authority, confidence and knowledge to persuade frontline advisers to embrace new ways of working. ‘Command & control’ is seldom a viable route to bring about change at a professional firm.”

Business Secretary, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, said: “The UK is the home of AI – from Alan Turing’s pioneering work to today’s growing use of AI throughout the economy. Artificial Intelligence is changing how we work, live and play.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we want to build on our history of innovation to develop and deploy AI to create new opportunities and improve services across the whole economy.”

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Professor Colin Williams invited to discuss proposed European Labour Authority in the European Parliament

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Dr Colin Williams European Parliament

Brexit negotiations may be the only news for the UK in relation to the European Union, but it is very much business as usual in the European Parliament. Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy in Sheffield University Management School (SUMS), was invited on 6th June to discuss the proposal for a European Labour Authority in the European Parliament.

The European Labour Authority aims to ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in fair, simple and effective way. It was announced in September 2017 by the president of the European Commission and on 13 March, the legislative proposal was presented as part of the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights. It is proposed that the Authority will be up and running in 2019 and is expected to reach its full operational capacity by 2023.

Invited by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group), the second largest grouping of MEPs in the Parliament, Professor Williams made the case for a real and effective European Labour Authority able to enforce labour and social rights and ensure rules on labour mobility fairly. Drawing upon his experiences as lead expert to the European Commission’s European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work, he called for a greater focus in the legislative proposal upon developing the capabilities and capacities of Member States to tackle labour abuse and enforce workers’ rights. He also called for a shift away from solely dealing with labour abuses after they occurred and towards preventing them from happening in the first place.

Professor Williams shared the platform with the Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Unions Confederation (representing 45 million members), and the European Commission official responsible for the legislative proposal. The debate was live-streamed and interpreted in five languages.

For further information: http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-we-need-effective-european-labour-authority-protects-workers-rights-and-ensures-fair