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What does the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) mean for UK business?

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Britain was the birthplace of the first industrial revolution. It also:

  • led the second - technological industrial revolution
  • was an early adopter of the third - automation-driven industrial revolution
  • is now readying itself to adopt and adapt to the fourth industrial revolution - driven by digital data, connectivity and cyber systems

This fourth industrial revolution (4IR), or ‘industry 4.0’ has the potential to create impressive, new and sometimes unimaginable business opportunities for those who are innovative and agile.

No one organisation can provide all the support needed to implement 4IR

Innovate UK (IUK) and its family of partners have been working together to develop and support the adoption of 4IR for revitalising UK Industry:

The Industry 4.0 Summit 4-5 April 2017 is a good illustration of how Innovate UK and its partners work together to achieve a common purpose.

This includes:

  • investing in technology development projects (RCs and Innovate UK)
  • identifying companies that need support, providing support and connecting them up with partners and solutions providers (KTN, EEN and others)
  • providing access to industry scale facilities and capabilities to devise, test and implement 4IR (Catapults)
  • providing input to government on its industrial strategy for the use of digital technologies to revolutionise manufacturing

These organisations work together as we understand that the path to 4IR implementation is a complex journey and no one organisation can provide all the support needed alone.

Helping SMEs realise the 4IR

The KTN works closely with Innovate UK identifying companies that need funding and support in both developing and implementing digital manufacturing technologies.

In the past year, it has run a initiative entitled “4Manufacturing” to connect the innovation landscape to help realise 4IR.  This initiative has focused particularly on SMEs as central to realising the fourth industrial revolution but often don’t know where to start and have limited budgets.

The KTN’s innovation experts have been working with a range of companies across different sectors to develop a straightforward and balanced innovation plan that will drive competitiveness, productivity and growth using digital manufacturing approaches. The results are being fed into the strategy for the UK.

Develop and support digital manufacturing for 4IR

The HVM Catapult has a cross centre group to develop and support digital manufacturing for 4IR.  The group has plans in place to take forward its six priority focus areas:

  1. business models
  2. standards
  3. cybersecurity
  4. research
  5. implementation
  6. skills

It is working closely with industry, Innovate UK and government to realise this potential.

Challenge SMEs to disrupt & bring innovative ideas to the manufacturing industry

The Digital Catapult has identified digital manufacturing as one of their three key focus areas for 2017.  To bring the digital and manufacturing communities together, Digital Catapult and Innovate UK have developed the Hack & Pitch competition to run alongside the summit, culminating in an exciting pitch-off finale at the Summit.

SMEs will have the opportunity to engage directly with industry thought leaders from the world’s leading manufacturing companies. The Hack & Pitch was created to inspire and challenge SMEs to disrupt and bring innovative ideas to the manufacturing industry.

Government investing in 4IR solutions

Over the past 3 years, Innovate UK has invested over £200 million in transformative digital technologies such as:

  • additive manufacturing
  • robotics and autonomous systems
  • modelling and simulation
  • augmented and virtual reality
  • data analytics
  • artificial intelligence

We work closely with industry, government and academia to enable and link the technologies being developed with the solutions required.

We are also working closely with the government regarding the recently announced Industry Strategy Challenge Funds, with the KTN running a series of engagement workshops to help to define and prioritise the industrial challenges.

The activity from all Innovate UK’s family shows the importance of this topic, and how all partners understand the need to work together.  Because there is a lot at stake!

We know we could significantly increase our productivity – which is currently much lower that many of our peer countries – by increasing the 4IR technologies to enable connectivity, flexibility and agility.

The adoption of these technologies across value chains would not only boost productivity for the companies and sectors involved, but for the entire UK economy.

Using digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensor technologies and automation, makes companies more agile and better equipped to respond to or even act ahead of the quick pace of changing consumer demands, supplier conditions and technology availability. And in today’s world, agile makes competitive.

Speak to us at Industry 4.0 Summit

Innovate UK is a sponsor of Industry 4.0 Summit – a conference and exhibition to be held in Manchester Central on 4/5 April.  This Summit will focus on the 4th industrial revolution, smart manufacturing and digital factories. Innovate UK will use this opportunity to highlight the funding and support mechanisms that it and its partners make available to help UK Manufacturers.

Innovate UK’s stand at this exhibition will feature:

  • UK companies that have received innovation funding
  • a range of demonstrators and tools from HVM Catapult centres
  • a video and information about the hackathon being run by the Digital Catapult

Staff from Innovate UK Manufacturing & Materials sector, the KTN, and manufacturing consultants from HVM Catapult will be on hand to answer questions and provide one-to-one advice.

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