An industry-led review, chaired by Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier, explores how increasing adoption of industrial IoT (IIoT) in manufacturing could make the UK a major player by 2030.
The UK government is redoubling its efforts to become a global leader in industrial digitalisation. An independent report, The Made Smarter Review, chaired by Professor Juergen Maier, head of Siemens UK, was published today and aims to highlight how the UK economy stands to gain from industry and government partnerships that encourage the adoption of digital technology in manufacturing.
The research draws on the expertise of executives from companies such as Rolls Royce, GKN and IBM, in addition to Siemens UK, as well as smaller firms and academics from Newcastle and Cambridge Universities.
It finds that, should the UK maximize the potential of IIoT, the economic gains over the next decade could be as high as £455 billion. This represents an increase in manufacturing growth between 1.5 and 3 percent each year. CO2 emissions could also be reduced by as much as 4.5 percent.
IIoT and the jobs outlook
Far from meaning a loss of jobs, as one might expect from digitalization, this boost could mean a net gain of 175,000 jobs throughout the economy. However, many of these would be newly created positions, managing and programming robots, for example. In other words, blue-collar, low-paying jobs would make way for highly skilled roles.
Professor Maier of Siemens told the BBC the transition would mean job losses: “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.”
“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.”
Nonetheless, the increased exports brought about by the competitiveness and connections that a fourth industrial revolution could bring to the UK, would create jobs at all levels. If the UK wants to challenge the output of the likes of the US, China and Germany, it can’t afford to be left behind when it comes to digitalization.
Informing government strategy
Professor Maier said that he hopes that the report will form a key pillar of the UK’s industrial strategy going forward. “I believe that it can make a real difference in helping the UK take a much more significant leadership role and a much greater slice of the opportunities arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.
Maier and his team identified three key obstacles to furthering digital penetration in industry – adoption, innovation and leadership – and puts in place the strategy required overcome them.
The introduction of pilot programmes, innovation hubs and research centres will tackle the first two, while a national body known as the Made Smarter UK [MSUK] Commission will help develop the UK as a leader in innovation.
Short-term job losses for the sake of long-term economic and employment opportunities, seems to be the official line. The logic here is sound. What remains to be seen is whether the strategic impact of the report will meet the headline figures it boasts.