Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used across various organizations in the Sunshine State.

In Gainesville, AI helps predict the next COVID-19 variant. In Ft. Myers, it provided evidence to prove a man’s innocence in a criminal case. The University of Florida uses AI to speed up brain research. And in rural areas, AI tracks the spread of citrus greening through Florida’s iconic orange groves.

When it comes to AI, some people assume the technologies associated with it are primarily used by large corporations. But a recent Deloitte Insights report examines the role small businesses can play in advancing AI innovation — and how policymakers can help them get there.

At a high level, AI uses computer systems to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence: Visual perception, speech recognition, and even some decision-making. Due to dramatic advancements in the past decade, AI is expected to be the most impactful technology of this generation. Its applications span many industries, creating opportunities to increase productivity and reduce overhead.

“A primary source of tech innovation has traditionally been entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Tasha Austin and Kevin Lubin, professionals in Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice and the authors of How the U.S. Government Can Accelerate AI Entrepreneurship. “Small firms regularly produce more patents per employee than large firms, which are associated with higher impact, growth, and profits. … Advancing AI innovation in the United States will therefore likely require greater support and opportunity for AI entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

But hurdles to innovation and entrepreneurship remain. For starters, the prohibitive cost of computing and the need for vast amounts of high-quality data can be significant barriers to small businesses.

Additionally, AI development requires specific technical talent, of which there is currently a significant shortage in the United States. For Florida to keep its position as an economic leader, the Sunshine State must embrace and integrate AI technology to support Florida’s workforce.

Deloitte’s report finds actions policymakers can take to break down barriers for local startups to overcome these challenges and support AI innovation from small businesses and entrepreneurs, including:

— Directly Funding AI Innovation

— Passing Legislation to Streamline Policies and Regulations Around AI Technology

— Creating New Incentives for AI Entrepreneurship

— Providing Technology Infrastructure Needed for Advanced AI Development

To help small businesses compete with larger companies, Florida lawmakers may want to consider using tax incentives to encourage more regular investments and upgrades to physical research and development (R&D) assets. According to Deloitte’s research, three of the largest technology firms in the United States account for about 62% of the global cloud infrastructure market. Offering tax breaks for smaller firms that invest in and upgrade their R&D assets could help them be more competitive in the cloud space.

Another opportunity to grow Florida’s AI innovation — establishing a technology hub.

Currently, a few tech hubs in Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego account for more than 90% of the growth in the high-tech sector.

Establishing a tech hub in Florida — or helping to strengthen growing centers of technology and innovation like Orlando — can enable Florida to compete more effectively nationally.

The state may also want to consider creating a formal consortium of organizations across multiple industries to stimulate industrial investments, boost academia-industry collaborations, and mobilize the community to create more horizontal and vertical partnerships.

AI is here to stay, so Florida policymakers should consider how best to break down barriers to innovation and promote an environment where emerging AI leaders and small businesses can compete, grow and thrive.

For more on how the government can help accelerate AI entrepreneurship, please click here.

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