Siemens and industry experts state digitalisation must rapidly accelerate to counter economic uncertainty

- Leadership - Jul 05, 2017

Last week, at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, industry experts came together for a summit which brought together business leaders from the automotive, utilities, construction, aerospace, and services sectors to discuss challenges in the economy over the next two years. The Industrial Digitalisation Review, led by Siemens CEO Juergen Maier on behalf of Business for Government, was used as the foundation of the discussion.

Siemens polled 30 CEOs and board-level executives of some of Britain’s leading businesses in a discussion that culminated in them calling for the rapid acceleration of digitalisation to counter uncertainty in the economy as well as providing a boost to productivity and skills.

85 percent of attendees said that lack of digital skills in the workplace is holding back the UK in the global technology race, and 82 percent stated that the UK must be more ambitious in taking the lead to create new technologies. Only 15 percent thought the UK was among the most skilled countries in the world, with 44 percent believing the UK to be too slow in adopting and developing new technologies.

All involved agreed that industry should work with government and higher education institutions to showcase and spread best practice in learning and development, focussed on both the current workforce and future workforce. They also agreed that a defined national skills standard for digital engineering should inform teaching and learning in schools, colleges, and universities.

 

Part of the problem, it seems, is a lack of a truly joined-up industrial and digital strategy, amplified by a lack of awareness in smaller companies focussed on surviving rather than developing strategies to thrive.

Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens in the UK, said: “We spoke to leading CEOs about what they thought digital could do for Britain – and the sense of excitement about what could be achieved was very real. There is an appetite to accelerate digitalisation in the UK, but lack of leadership and skills hold us back.

“The consensus was overwhelmingly clear – we need to rapidly retrain the existing labour force to cope with changes in technologies and get the new entrants the best possible start with renewed investment in education and technical digital skills.

“Allied to this was the need for UK PLC to develop a brand for its innovation that is accessible and well understood nationally and internationally.”

While the group agreed that the UK offers a competitive labour market that makes for a flexible approach to implementation of new technologies, it will have to work hard to catch up. British factories

Brian Holliday, Managing Director - Siemens Digital Factory, added: “The consensus was clear - the foundations for a bright digital future are already here. World-beating research, a flexible workforce and a capable Information Technology sector are a great start. But, it’s evident to our senior leaders that UK industry hasn’t a moment to lose and must invest in digital skills, innovation and deployment if we are to progress in this accelerating global race.”

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