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UK Not Ready for Fourth Industrial Revolution

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First it was steam power, then railroads and computers. Now the fourth industrial revolution is upon us with advanced digital technology—and the UK isn’t ready.

The fourth industrial revolution is the growth of new technology and automation and could transform how things are manufactured by increased speed and efficiency and lowering costs.

Industrial Revolution Is Nearing

Groups that can take advantage of the new industrial revolution stand to see huge benefits, and those that don’t risk getting left behind as technology and manufacturing goes in a new direction.

A new independent report called Made Smarter finds that the new industrial revolution could be a huge boost to UK manufacturing and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Britain’s manufacturing sector could bring in £455 billion in the next decade if it taps into new technology.

However, the UK isn’t currently in a place to take advantage of the new technology. According to the report, the UK has a lot to gain by creating an environment where AI, robotics, the Internet of Things, and other new technologies can converge to drive innovation. However, it its current state, things aren’t quite there yet, especially as other countries are further along.

The report pulled in academics from around the world and executives from small and large companies. Findings will help the UK government prepare for industrial changes and set the stage for he UK economical future.

Steps to Take to Insure UK’s Progress

The report lines out numerous suggestions for what the UK needs to do to be ready for the fourth industrial revolution. It calls for the creation of a commission to help businesses adjust to evolving technologies. A large part of the industrial revolution will be automation, which could lead to human jobs being replaced by robots in some industries—this is obviously a huge change that companies and employees need to prepare for and could affect UK financial policy.

“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,” said Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier, who led the report. ”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.”

The report also proposes creating five digital centres to foster innovation and give companies the tools they need to stay ahead of new technology. The group also suggests establishing a national commission charged with turning the UK into a global leader in industrial digital technologies. Experts say the commission is particularly important because many other countries, including China and the U.S., already have plans in place for growth that could put the UK far behind.

Maier acknowledges that some of the proposals from the report are “ambitious”, especially as the UK still has to work through Brexit. And although there is much work to do to get the UK to a competitive and prepared state on the global stage, he acknowledges that the country isn’t starting from nothing and already has knowledge, assets, and skills that just need to be organised in the right way.

“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,” he wrote.

The government will now consider which of the proposals from the report will move forward. The responding white paper is expected to be published before Christmas.

There is work to be done to prepare for a new industrial revolution, but if the UK can bring together technology, manufacturing, and government, it stands to see huge growth and rewards.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.