Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 18th September 2019
More needs to be done to encourage UK companies to integrate automation technologies into their operations if they are to compete effectively with rivals elsewhere in the world.
That’s according to a report put together by a committee of MPs in Westminster, which fears that entire regions of the country, as well as individual businesses, will become uncompetitive in the coming years - if they aren’t already.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee has said that the UK is currently only moving slowly towards automation and needs to pick up the pace as a matter of urgency.
It has said that Britain is already lagging behind other countries in the G7 group of advanced economies, who are tending to integrate robots and other automated technologies more quickly.
The committee insists that it wants to see the government coming forward with a serious plan of action on this front soon and a full ‘UK Robot and AI Strategy’ by the end of 2020.
Measures included in any such strategy documents should focus on finding ways to support businesses in becoming more automated and encourage universities to focus on innovations in these contexts, the committee says.
“The switch to automation brings challenges for businesses and for workers, with fears for livelihoods or disruption to job roles coming to the fore,” said Rachael Reeves, chair of the BEIS committee.
“The real danger for the UK economy and for future jobs growth is, however, not that we have too may robots in the workplace but that we have too few.”
Ms Reeves went on to say that countries that adapt to developments in automation more quickly than the UK will ultimately create more and better paid jobs.
The BEIS committee’s report concludes that there is currently a widespread lack of awareness and understanding of automation technologies that is hindering business productivity, particularly among SMEs across the country.
“The government should work with universities and businesses to provide the advice, networking, and access to finance necessary for the UK to reap the benefits of domestic tech success stories rather than too often seeing these businesses get snapped up by overseas investors,” Ms Reeves said as she announced her committee’s new report.