A "data divide" exists among UK enterprises which consigns two-thirds of them to a "data underclass", according to new research.

Vanson Bourne, the marketing research firm, interviewed 300 enterprise level CIOs in the UK, France and Germany, and found there was a "chasm" opening up between companies that are able to collect and analyse vast quantities of historical and live data across multiple sources, and make immediate, real-time changes to their business activities - and those that can’t.

The research, carried out on behalf of data analytics firm TIBCO, found that the average UK enterprise sits on 658TB (terabytes) of data, yet little more than one-third (38 percent) of them currently use any of their data to exploit momentary business opportunities. This compared to 53 percent in Germany and 43 percent in France.

The majority of CIOs are "acutely aware" of the potential damage of being caught on the wrong side of the data divide though, with 21 percent expecting that not being able to identify and act upon transient opportunities will have a "catastrophic" impact on their businesses in the future.

Another 36 percent believe the impact will be "significant", while a further 36 percent expect a "moderate" impact. Only six percent said it would have no effect on their business activities.

Of the estimated 62 percent of enterprises that have yet to traverse the data divide, 47 percent of UK enterprises state that they hope to use their data to make changes to their businesses "eventually". Less encouraging is the 12 percent of UK enterprises that use their data "for compliance purposes only", and worse still the two percent that do nothing whatsoever with their data.

The biggest obstacles to being able to implement systems that will enable enterprises to close the data divide include budget (30 percent) and resources (26 percent). A further 20 percent cite a lack of understanding in the business.

Mark Darbyshire, EMEA CTO at TIBCO, said, "It looks increasingly like UK companies are lagging behind their continental counterparts. The ability to alert and then convert a transient opportunity or avert an impending threat will be crucial for long term survival.

"Those trapped by the data divide will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

Earlier this week rival business analytics firm Software AG revamped its main product offerings to help tackle the Big Data needs of its customers.