South Korea and Germany lead ‘automation index’; US and UK off the pace
South Korea, Germany and Singapore are best positioned to lead the world for industrial automation, thanks to their approaches to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
These three, along with Japan and Canada, are the top five countries for “automation readiness”, according to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by Swiss conglomerate ABB. They scored high for their innovation, education and labour policies.
France, the UK and the US all finished outside of the top positions, between seventh and ninth.
The ‘automation readiness index’ measures countries’ preparedness for the coming wave of intelligent automation, evaluating government-led efforts to shape technological progress in 25 countries – the G20, plus an additional five nations.
Top of the table, South Korea spent the equivalent of four per cent of GDP on research and development in 2016, more than any other country; Japan was second in terms of investment as a proportion of GDP, spending 3.28 per cent, and Germany was third, at 2.88 per cent. The US came in fourth for investment, from France, Australia, Singapore, China and the UK.
In terms of their ‘environment’ for innovation, fostering collaboration between government, adademia and enterprise, Japan, South Korea and Germany ranked highest.
South Korea also topped the charts for its education policies, with reforms to teaching training and assessment, and its focus on softer skills. Estonia and Singapore were second and third for education. The UK and US were joint ninth.
Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive at ABB, said the report charts patterns of national success in the field of industrial automation. “We must take advantage of these recommendations. The pace of innovation and job change today us so fast that everyone must have access to lifelong learning,” he said.
“Augmenting human potential with technology, in a responsible way, while providing on-going education and training, is an opportunity to drive prosperity and growth.”
The report was timed to launch at Hannover Messe, in Germany, the highest-ranking European country on every score.
The report notes the country’s trade union movement has positioned the government well when it comes to automation. State initiatives such as Work 4.0 (‘Arbeit 4.0), which seeks to address employment in the digital age, and policies such as employment insurance have helped the country develop automation.
ABB cited the German “dual track” education system as another success factor in its leadership.
Developing countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico are struggling to automate, the report said. Harry Patrinos, practice manager for education, East Asia and Pacific, World Bank, is quoted in the report, stating: “The most affected counties will be the emerging, middle-income ones that are preparing for the East Asian miracle of open economies led by rapid industrialisation; this manufacturing model won’t be available to them.”
China, he noted, is the exception.
Canada ranks well because of the initiatives of individual provinces such as Ontario to adapt their education systems and teaching approaches to the demands posed by advanced technologies. Its government is also supportive of technological innovation; in 2017, it invested $100 million into AI.
The US unveiled its AI strategy back in 2016, with blueprints for ambitious state-sponsored AI schemes, followed by China and Japan; further nations, including the UK and France, have published their own strategies on AI, reviewed by Enterprise IoT Insights.
ABB has recently announced it is to invest €100 million in a new innovation and training campus in Austria. At Hannover Messe, ABB has announced a partnership with HPE to launch a new micro-modular data centre to handle data processing at the network edge in smart factory environments.