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Industry 4.0 ‘is inevitable, but the UK could be left behind’

23 February, 2015

Britain is on the cusp of a technology-driven fourth industrial revolution, with eight in ten manufacturers (80%) saying it will become a business reality by 2025. However 58% fear that the UK is in danger of being left behind.

The figures come from new research just published by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, which surveyed 206 senior decision-makers in UK manufacturing firms. Almost all (88%) say that the UK should be taking a leading role, with 66% arguing that the UK’s ability to compete globally will depend on it keeping up with advances in technology.

But only 14% of those quizzed feel that the UK is equipped to take this leading role. The biggest challenge – cited by 70% – is the level of investment needed. Other hindrances include finding the necessary skills (59%) and keeping on top of the technological advances (58%).

Despite these obstacles, the EEF panel believes that the advances in technology will play to the UK’s strength as a high-value manufacturer, with potential benefits including the ability to produce more bespoke products (cited by 56%) and faster, cheaper prototyping (52%).

To achieve these benefits, 85% of those surveyed believe that the UK needs a long-term industrial strategy spanning consecutive governments, while 78% say that government must work with industry and academia to achieve this.

“The fourth industrial revolution will change the global face of manufacturing beyond recognition,” comments EEF CEO, Terry Scuoler. “The UK must take a leading role if we are to realise our ambitions for a healthy, balanced and growing economy.

Scuoler: UK must take a leading role

“The next decade will bring great and rapid change and the early-adopting nations will maximise the opportunities presented by new technologies and thrive as a result,” he adds. “There will inevitably be winners and losers, which is why we should take note when manufacturers say there is a real danger of the UK being left behind.

“Our sector's ability to remain on top of the fourth industrial wave hinges on the decisions made now and over the next decade by consecutive governments,” Scoular states. “We must continue to establish the foundations to support our manufacturing renaissance, particularly alleviating the pressure that Industry 4.0 will place on investment and skills. It is vital that the Government steps up to this challenge and works hand-in-hand with manufacturers and academia to ensure that the UK is not left behind.”

The EEF survey was sponsored by Infor and IBM.

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