Australia’s artificial intelligence ecosystem is coming of age and transforming from a futuristic promise to a genuine business priority, but siloes in the industry need to be addressed moving forward, a new report has found.

Minister for Industry Ed Husic launched the CSIRO National AI Centre’s Australia’s AI Ecosystem Momentum report on Monday morning.

The research, conducted by Forrester Consulting, included an online survey with 200 respondents, and qualitative interviews with business decision-makers and AI companies.

The report found that AI is no longer constrained to the realm of early adopters and startups, and has burst into the mainstream to be a legitimate and rapidly-growing priority area in businesses of all shapes and sizes in Australia.

It found that the benefits of adopting AI have moved far beyond the initial use case of automating simple tasks, towards aligning its use across an entire company and in addressing cross-functional business objectives.

These AI uses include content intelligence, e-discovery and AI-assisted prototyping.

The report shows that the Australian AI ecosystem is moving in the right direction, but targeted support and collaboration is needed going forward, Husic said.

“AI is one of those enabling capabilities that’s poised to transform industries, and we know the economic potential is there,” Husic said.

“But seizing that business potential will take some work – building awareness and working across businesses, large and small – to make that a reality.

“Australia’s got some top AI talent here and we need to scale up this effort for the longer benefit of the nation.”

The report found that four or more AI service providers are often required to deliver an AI project, with nearly a third of respondents saying that six were necessary.

Less than 20 per cent of those surveyed said they worked with only one AI provider.

“Collaboration is essential to respond to the growing need for more creativity, trust and delivery of the capabilities a national AI ecosystem needs to fully harness the potential for AI transformation of Australia’s technology landscape,” the report said.

This partner ecosystem in AI needs to continue maturing in Australia, with capabilities in existence but often siloed, making it difficult for local companies, the report found.

“AI-related technologies and the associated ecosystem is ever-evolving and maturing, but the current state is sufficient for Australian businesses to launch their AI implementation journey,” it said.

“To maximise the potential of AI-related technologies, organisations must operationalise them across different business functions and actively identify solutions that can fit together to drive multiple outcomes.

“This will require change not only for businesses consuming AI but for the ecosystem of providers as well.”

The research found that the main benefits of AI use for Australian businesses is improved security, greater revenue growth and increased cyber safety.

The sector is also poised to continue growing, with 60 per cent of respondents saying they are accelerating and expanding offerings to meet demand, and 80 per cent of businesses expecting year-on-year growth.

Some of the challenges around adopting AI for these companies are privacy, security, data quality and talent shortages. The report called on business leaders to develop AI responsibly in order to mitigate many of these risks.

Husic added that it is important to focus on how AI can benefit the wider community, not just businesses.

“AI should be seen as more than just a business…we can put it to work to benefit communities and national wellbeing too,” he said.

“This report is timely, suggesting a more nuanced direction for AI in Australia and emphasising the importance of collaboration and having access to the right talent for businesses.”

There has been a significant focus on artificial intelligence by the federal government of late, with its flagship $15 billion manufacturing fund designating the sector as a priority area for investment.

In the private sector, Telstra also recently partnered with AI analytics firm Quantium to apply AI techniques across its products, services and customer interactions late last year.