UK must prepare for fourth industrial revolution, says report

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The UK must do more to take advantage of technology such as robotics, a report says

Advanced digital technology could give UK manufacturing a huge boost and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, a new report claims.

The independent review, chaired by the head of Siemens UK, highlights the benefits of robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

But Juergen Maier said the UK needed “greater ambition” to take advantage of such technology.

His report calls for a commission to help business adopt the advances.

The report, Made Smarter, brought together executives from companies such as Rolls Royce, GKN and IBM, with representatives from small firms as well as academics from the universities of Newcastle and Cambridge.

Its recommendations will help inform the government’s industrial strategy plans.

Mr Maier said: “The business and academic community has set out a vision for much greater ambition needed for Britain to be a world leader in the fourth industrial revolution.

“Our proposals will help business understand, deploy and create the latest digital technologies, helping to secure more homegrown research and development and the creation of new industries and highly skilled, well-paid jobs.”

The report proposes:

  • More targeted support for companies, re-skilling workers, and a National Adoption Programme piloted in the north west
  • Five digital research centres to improve innovation and capability
  • A national commission in charge of turning Britain into a global leader in industrial digital technologies

The proposals were backed by CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, who warned about the UK’s international competition.

“The UK must compete with China, the USA and much of Europe where there are already advanced plans to embrace the fourth industrial revolution,” she said.

Sean Redmond, chief executive of software firm Vertizan and a contributor to the report, said the UK needed to “catch up with international competitors”.

“Smaller businesses that are growing at scale, especially industrial companies, need support learning about how digitalisation can help their business grow,” he said.