Digital technologies can drive productivity, competitiveness and carbon reduction, but the UK is lagging behind the rest of the developed world in their adoption
“The UK has a great opportunity to build a world leading digital technology industry that will benefit UK exports and the economy, but our own infrastructure, transport and manufacturing companies are not investing enough in these technologies”, said ABB’s UK managing director, Ian Funnell, speaking to an audience of around 200 Members of Parliament (MPs), policymakers and business leaders at the company’s annual House of Commons gathering on June 25.
Digitalisation has helped strengthen competitiveness in the UK’s financial services and media sectors, but other parts of the economy are not yet reaping its benefits as adoption rates are way below those of other developed nations. UK productivity languishes at 16 percent below the average for the G7 nations and as an indicator of the lack of investment in automation, the UK lies only 22nd in the global ranking of industrial robotics adoption.
Ian Funnell remained upbeat about the chances of improving the UK’s competitiveness, particularly in the energy and transport sectors, where there are some good examples of innovative digital technologies being applied to automating ports and managing the electricity network. He called on the government to take firmer leadership to promote digitalisation and help increase the pace of investment.
ABB used the event, which was hosted by MPs Kemi Badenoch and Richard Harrington and attended by more than 100 UK businesses, to demonstrate some of the technologies the company is already implementing in the UK to boost productivity, reduce energy consumption and support the move to lower carbon energy.
Richard Harrington, also minister for business and industry at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, spoke at the reception, recognising the value of business to the UK, the need for a clear industrial strategy and the government’s role in supporting innovation. “The Government wants to work with companies like ABB to help make us a more attractive place to invest and to ensure our industry is competitive on the global stage”.
Attendees at the reception took the opportunity to try out some of ABB’s digital technologies. ABB’s collaborative robot YuMi® wrote and handed messages to delegates, while attendees took a virtual tour of future e-mobility and energy systems.