Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy built around robotics, AI and 5G

The government is putting cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 5G wireless internet and ‘smart’ energy technology at the heart of its post-Brexit industrial strategy.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Sunday evening that the strategy would be focused around ten key strategic pillars, the first of which is: ‘Investing in science, research, and innovation.’

The PM said: “The modern Industrial Strategy will back Britain for the long-term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country.”

The government says that a £4.7billion increase in R&D funding announced by the Prime Minister in November’s Autumn Statement is central to the new industrial strategy and will focus on Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, sectors.

Commenting on the proposals, Tudor Aw, head of tech sector at KPMG UK, said: “As has been long recognised, to be successful in tech, we desperately need to upskill our workforce in STEM subjects and to see investment in these skills as well as in science, R&D and innovation is hugely promising.”

He added: “The hope is that this is just the start and we will see other future disruptive technologies such as Nano technology, autonomous vehicles and IoT/’Connected everything’ get similar focus and funding.”

The government hopes not only to improve living standards and drive economic growth across the country, but also to future proof Britain by creating a nation of highly skilled technical workers who can help enable the AI and robotics revolution rather than fall victim to it.

As part of the Modern Industrial Strategy, the government is planning to spend £170million to establish new "Institutes of Technology," which will provide high-skilled technical training tailored to employers' needs and offer people an alternative to university.

Commenting on the new Institutes, May added: “As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.”

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, warned: “While these pledges are broadly positive, they must be underpinned by a radical overhaul of current policy. For example, Government has scrapped plans for the Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration project, which is the only viable technology that could decarbonise our electricity sector in the medium-term.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive officer of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “This is an important first step towards creating a comprehensive, consistent and long-term industrial strategy that will help Britain adjust to a more globally-focused, post-Brexit economy. Manufacturing has a key role to play and we look forward to working with the government on crystallising this into a strategic framework that will work and deliver for industry.”

He went on to agree with Dr Brown, however, by adding: “The end result of this process must be an industrial strategy that lives up to the promise of driving different behaviours and outcomes for the British economy. This requires the whole of government working together to support it, with clear leadership from the Prime Minister and her whole Cabinet.”

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “I welcome the government’s consultation on a new industrial strategy. It provides an opportunity for UK industry, local areas and universities to join together with government to make the UK a great place to found or grow a business. But we will only be able to make the most of these opportunities if there is also investment in the skills that employers need.The government’s industrial strategy will be critical in delivering that step change in our skills base.”

Tom Austin-Morgan

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