It’s Time for the UK to Get Proactive About the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Says Government-Commissioned Report

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Ever since the Brexit vote occurred, everyone has been wondering what the United Kingdom’s economic future will look like. According to Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, the country should be just fine – as long as it fully embraces and catches up to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In a government-commissioned report entitled Made Smarter, Maier says that the UK could create thousands of jobs and generate £455 billion over the next 10 years – but he also says that the country needs “greater ambition” to take advantage of technology such as 3D printing, robotics, virtual reality and the Internet of Things.

New challenges and higher costs are facing the manufacturing sector after the Brexit vote, but those challenges can be mitigated by incorporating these technologies more thoroughly into the industry, says Maier.

“The good news here is Britain is not starting from nothing,” he says. “The UK has brilliant knowledge, assets and skills in this space but it is sometimes not as organised as it could be. This combined package of measures will boost UK growth and productivity in manufacturing and provide more exports and increased earning potential, which our economy desperately needs.”

Those measures were developed by more than 200 organizations, and include the creation of what the report calls a “digital ecosystem,” which would include support for small and medium-sized businesses looking to adopt industrial digital technologies (IDT). That would include the bringing together a network of Digital Innovation Hubs, implementing Digital Transformational Demonstrator programs to address key challenges and improve productivity and sustainability, and creating a network of Digital Research Centers to advance research and innovation in several focused areas of industrial technology.

Another proposal involves training a million industrial workers in digital technology under the Made Smarter UK commission, which would involve the creation of a digital delivery platform for upskilling and reskilling workers, as well as the establishment of an incentivized program to further digital skills, especially in workers who are at risk of losing their jobs to automation. Further suggestions include creating a national brand campaign to increase awareness of how digital technologies can transform industry, and the development of standards for IDT. Data trusts to ensure the secure exchange of data are also recommended.

Despite some jobs being replaced by robotics and automation, Maier hopes that a net gain in jobs will be possible thanks to positions in IT, analytics, and research and development – which is why a national upskilling/reskilling program is so important. Skills have been in focus in the UK for some time, with many calling for a focus on digital upskilling to enhance adoption of advanced technologies.

“On the one hand it is going to create productivity and more exports and through that we can create more jobs but at the same time robotics and artificial intelligence will displace some jobs,” he says. “The best thing we can do is to make ourselves ready for it in a very proactive way and that means training our people…we need to up skill one million existing workers in the industrial and manufacturing sector…so they can transition from tasks that might be displaced to, for example, managing or programming robots.”

Juergen Maier [Image: Mark Pinder/The Observer]

According to Maier, the Made Smarter review sets forth a goal for the UK to become not only skilled in digital technology, but a leader in the field. Among the broad proposals outlined above are specific plans, such as allowing small to medium-sized engineering companies to go to a space to experiment with new technologies and see how they might be applied within their own facilities, and partnering startups with universities and larger companies like Siemens through the digital innnovation hubs.

The government will now consider the proposals laid out in the report with the goal of agreeing on a sector deal with industry that is likely to include co-investment. A government white paper is expected to be published before Christmas.

“The UK manufacturing sector has the potential to be a global leader in the industrial digital technology revolution,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark. “Government and industry must work together to seize the opportunities that exist in this sector and promote the benefits of adopting emerging digital technologies, as well as cutting edge business models.”

The full report is available here.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Sources: The Guardian / BBC]

 

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