The UK needs to take advantage of new technologies and adopt an innovative economy to become a leader in Industry 4.0, states a government-backed report.
The Industrial Digitalisation Report, carried out by Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier alongside other industry leaders, startups and universities, states that the UK has a talented workforce and access to cutting-edge technology, but has not taken advantage of these in the past.
It proposes a three-pronged strategy of adoption, innovation and leadership to help push the country into Industry 4.0 and move into a digital industrial phase. It argues that by taking advantage of modern technologies and techniques, such as connected devices and big data, the UK is set to gain as much as £455 billion. It also predicts a net gain of 175,000 jobs.
Currently, Maier identifies several major failings in the UK that he believes are holding the country back. These are a lack of effective leadership of industrial digitalisation in the UK; poor levels of adoption, particularly among SMEs; and under-leveraged innovation assets to support startups.
As a result of the report, a National Adoption Programme will be trialled in the North West, which will focus on increasing the capacity of existing growth hubs and providing more targeted support.
The report continues; ‘Critical to the success of our recommendations will be the upskilling of a million industrial workers to enable digital technologies to be adopted and exploited through a single Industrial Digitalisation Skills Strategy.’
As well as this, it notes that 25 new innovation centres will be commissioned – consisting of 12 digital innovation hubs, eight demonstrators, and five digital research centres. In order to carry out these changes, a national body, the Made Smarter UK Commission, will be created. The Commission will consist of industry, government, academia and innovation organisations.
Looking at the integral importance of IoT technology to the future of the country’s economy, the report states: ‘There are around 6.4 billion data-communicating objects in the world today. And by 2020, this number is forecast to explode to around 20 billion. Emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as AI, robotics, and the Internet of Things are significant in their own right.
‘However, it is the convergence of these IDTs (Industrial Digital Technologies) that really turbo-charges their impact. The potential size of the prize is huge.’
Maier concludes on the risk and reward of making these changes: ‘Get it wrong, and we risk further de-industrialising our economy, and becoming ever more reliant on imports. Get it right, and we will have found the key to rebalancing and strengthening our economy, creating many new, exciting, and well-paid jobs.’