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UK companies need to prepare for next industrial revolution of AI, 3D printing and robots, warns report

Companies in the UK need to prepare now for the so-called fourth industrial revolution, which will be led by artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics. 

The warning comes from the head of Siemens UK, in a the study that claims that the combination of technologies could transform British manufacturing and generate hundreds of thousands of new, well-paid jobs.

The report profiles the thoughts of executives from industrial giants such as Rolls Royce, GKN and IBM, along with representatives from SMEs and academics from several UK universities.

According to the report, technology could boost manufacturing in the UK by £445bn and create 175,000 jobs over the next decade.

Although the report highlights the great potential offered by new technologies, it also shows the need for new industrial strategy plans to ensure this success is achieved.

It calls for the creation of a new commission to ensure companies have the resources and skills needed to implement new technologies.

Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK, said the UK must show “greater ambition” if it is to take advantage of these new technologies.

“The business and academic community has set out a vision for much greater ambition needed for Britain to be a world leader in the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

However, speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, he explained that this new industrial revolution will result in some 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,” he said.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, said: “The UK manufacturing sector has the potential to be a global leader in the industrial digital technology revolution.

“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.”

Chas Moloney, director of office solutions specialist Ricoh UK, said: “Businesses need to start preparing for the arrival of robots in the workplace by equipping employees with the appropriate digital skills they need to adapt to rapidly changing job roles.

“This study highlights the need for the UK to invest in new and emerging technologies for us to truly compete with other nations. If this does not happen, internationally we risk sliding down the pecking order.

“By ensuring employees understand and are appropriately trained in the latest technologies, employers can provide them with an opportunity to flourish in this new digital economy.

“For those millennials who are already well-versed in established technologies, this will enable both them and subsequent generations to be able to adapt more swiftly to changing market conditions.”

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