'Fourth industrial revolution' could be worth £455bn to UK and create 175,000 jobs, claims report

Robotics, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies can deliver huge benefits but Government and industry must co-operate to take full advantage, says report

Report sets out strategy to ensure UK takes full advantage of robotics, artificial intelligence and other developing technologies
Report sets out strategy to ensure UK takes full advantage of robotics, artificial intelligence and other developing technologies

Britain may be able to create 175,000 new manufacturing jobs and generate an extra £455bn if the UK takes full advantage of a “fourth industrial revolution”, based on robotics, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies.

That’s the conclusion of a new Government-commissioned report by a group representing some of the UK’s top companies, led by Siemens UK and Ireland boss, Professor Juergen Maier.

Manufacturing could grow by up to 3 per cent per year for a decade, according to the report, which lays out recommendations for Prime Minister Theresa May’s industrial strategy.

It called for a new commission which would promote the development of digital technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality as well as the skills required to work in advanced industries.

Manufacturing has declined in most advanced countries over the last 30 years, with the UK seeing a particularly marked drop-off. The sector made up 20 per cent of the UK economy in 1990, compared to just 10 per cent in 2015, the report said.

While many commentators and analysts have warned that automation and AI could lead to the large-scale destruction of jobs, Professor Maier outlines the potential technology has for making positive impacts on the economy.

He recommends Government support through tax incentives for manufacturing firms as well as the creation of 12 hubs for innovation, as part of a UK-wide programme that would see startups work with larger, more-established firms.

Professor Maier, said the proposals represent the greater vision that Britain needs to be a world leader in the new wave of developing technologies.

“Industry is committed to working in partnership with Government, and 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 said.

“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.”

Confederation of British Industry director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said the measures would see new technology adopted more rapidly and bring new energy to the UK’s manufacturing sector.

“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.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said that in order for the UK manufacturing sector to become a global leader, “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.”

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