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Latest News What are the opportunities for the UK from Robotics and Automation?

November 17th 2017

The recently published ‘Made Smarter Review’, Led by Siemens CEO Prof. Juergen Maier and his industrial strategy leadership team, may have the answer.

The review was created in the hope of forming the basis for a sector deal and to become a key pillar of the UK’s emerging Industrial Strategy.

What are the opportunities for the UK from Robotics and Automation?

“I believe that the review 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” – Prof Maier.

The independent review, which began in January of this year, has attracted immense enthusiasm and a substantial contribution from the business and academic communities.

The review seeks to establish the institutional framework and ecosystems that will spur the next generation of domestic technological innovation.

The Leadership team analyzed five of the most important Industrial Digitalization Technologies to both understand the UK’s relative position within their respective industries, and identify any issues that are preventing the UK becoming a world leader in their development and application. The technologies the team looked at were:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • AI, machine learning, and data analytics
  • Automation and robotics
  • Connectivity
  • VR and AR.

For Additive manufacturing, AI and automation and robotics, a ‘value at stake’ analysis was undertaken as part of the research.

According to the review:

  • The application of automation and robotics within UK industry provides a value at stake of £183.6 billion to the UK economy – with additional benefits for both the individual and society.
  • Barclays estimates that an accelerated level of investment in robots could raise manufacturing GVA in the UK by 21 percent over ten years.
  • Copenhagen Business School identified productivity improvements of 22 percent if the UK invested in automation in line with the best in class for each industry sector

ElecTech refers to the industrial application of electronics, electro-technical, and embedded software technologies. It is a core part of the digitalisation of manufacturing, providing many essential skills, components, and capabilities. The ElecTech sector is widely regarded as driving some of the greatest innovation and creativity in any advanced economy (source: ZVEI).

Almost every aspect of the digitalisation of industry rests on many different ElecTech technologies, from communications to power subsystems, and from embedded processing for automation and control to intelligent lighting and security systems. Advanced ElecTech computation powers everything from the largest data centres to the smallest sensors and servos, doing everything from day-to-day computing to accelerating AI-based machine learning, and making every electric motor smarter and self-maintaining. Without ElecTech, industrial digitalisation simply could not happen.

ElecTech is a major sector in the UK, employing more than a million people in over 45,000 companies. Indeed, the UK has one of the strongest intellectual property capabilities in ElecTech in the world. It already attracts significant inward investment from companies like Apple, Google and Amazon thanks to our strengths in ElecTech technologies and early adopters in the automotive, aerospace and creative industries.

Many of the ElecTech technologies essential to the future of automation and robotics have industry leaders here in the UK, including those producing silicon chips (ARM), sensors (Renishaw), AR/VR (Imagination), AI (GraphCore), power (Dynex Semiconductor) and communications (5GIC Surrey and CSR, now part of Qualcomm).

The UK already has world-leading research institutions in robotics, in fields as diverse as healthcare, subsea autonomous vehicles and vacuum cleaners. Groups such as the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, Sheffield Robotics, Bristol Robotics Lab, and Imperial College’s Hamlyn Centre are all recognised as significant contributors and innovators in global robotics research.

Furthermore, the UK has some highly innovative robot companies. These include the Shadow Robot Company (artificial hand robots), Peak Analysis and Automation (laboratory robots), Engineered Arts (human-emulating interactive robots) and Tharsus (warehouse robots for Ocado and others). Dyson is an example of a consumer goods company investing tens of millions into robotics for household appliances. And automotive multinationals, such as Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, have already seized on the benefits of robots as a key part of their automation strategies in the UK.

However, overall uptake of manufacturing automation in the UK is disturbingly slow compared to most other developed nations. The UK has only 33 robots per 10,000 employees (compared with 93 in the US and 170 in Germany) (source: IFR). What’s more, the gap is widening. Germany invests 6.6 times more than the UK in automation, although its manufacturing sector is only 2.7 times the UK’s in size (source: ZVEI). The key reasons for this are public perception, lack of ambition, aversity to risk, shortage of skills, and finance.

The design, deployment and support of robot-based manufacturing systems has been embraced by most G7 countries such as Germany, France, Italy and the US, as well as powerhouses such as China (see Made in China Appendix 2) and South Korea. They see it as a key to increasing productivity. They recognise that automation changes the underlying economics of manufacturing, enabling them to create high growth and better productivity, and enabling their factories to make more competitive products – whether cars, furniture, food or clothing.

Read the full report here: .Gov Website.

Or Download here.

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