Will Industry 4.0 solve England’s North-South divide?

Posted on 14 Sep 2018 by Jonny Williamson

A new Tech Task Force, convened by Green Alliance, will focus on the opportunities for smart technologies to boost the resource efficiency of UK businesses and improve the economic prospects of manufacturing regions.

Road map of England - North South Divide - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Industrial decline is commonly used as an explanation for the North-South divide; however, many Northern post-industrial cities and towns are now experiencing a renaissance – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The majority of UK manufacturers (80%) say industry 4.0 will be a reality by 2025, yet only 11% say they will be ready to capitalise on it.

Furthermore, it’s estimated that technology-enabled resource efficiency has the potential to add £10bn to the profits of the UK manufacturing sector.

Although the government has set out its ambition for digital innovation and clean growth in its Industrial Strategy, little attention is being given to delivery as UK politicians have their hands full with Brexit.

To fill the policy vacuum, this new Tech Task Force brings together businesses committed to smart clean growth to work out where policy can accelerate the adoption of technologies that could help businesses across the UK grow their profits by reducing their environmental impact.

The task force’s core mission is to address regional productivity gap in the UK, and its members include: The High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Innovate UK, GAMBICA, Schneider Electric and Ramboll.

Angela Francis, chief economist at Green Alliance, commented: “We know smart technology is a powerful way to deliver clean growth and bring business resource costs down, but limited uptake is preventing UK businesses from realising those opportunities.

“To get politicians’ attention we have to show them how this can benefit ‘blue-collar’ workers in the Midlands and the North of England, who have told them in no uncertain terms the economy isn’t delivering for them.”

Prof Sam Turner, chief technology officer at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, said: “Helping UK businesses adopt smart technologies and improve resource efficiency will increase the competitiveness of the UK manufacturing sector while reducing its environmental impact and is at the heart of our strategy.

“Most people focus on smart technologies and labour productivity, but resource productivity is where we see the greatest opportunity.”

Steve Brambley, chief executive of GAMBICA, the Trade Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology, said: “Smart technology can be used to reduce energy consumption, eliminate waste and decrease carbon emissions. As well as being environmental imperatives, these are important goals for the UK’s long-term competitiveness.”