HomeEnterpriseUK ramps up multi-billion pound smart manufacturing, smart mobility strategies

UK ramps up multi-billion pound smart manufacturing, smart mobility strategies

The UK government has ramped up its transformation of manufacturing and mobility with new initiatives and funding opportunities.

Its ‘made smarter’ commission, aimed at unlocking £455 billion gains in the manufacturing industry over the next decade, has convened for the first time, with senior executives from the likes of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Siemens.

At the same time, it has announced 10 city-regions that will compete for an £840-million share of its £1.7 billion ‘transforming cities’ fund. Both announcements are tried to the UK government’s stated ‘industrial strategy’, to put the country on an accelerated post-‘Brexit’ course of digital transformation.

The commission was appointed after the ‘made smarter’ review at the end of last year, which combined input from 200 enterprises and agencies, including Rolls Royce, IBM, and Accenture, as well as from SMEs and academic institutes.

The commission, co-chaired by UK business secretary Greg Clark and Siemens chief executive Professor Juergen Maier, was convened for the first time this week, with a remit to bring new efficiency and productivity to the manufacturing sector, along with thousands of highly-skilled jobs.

Seventeen executives – also from industry bodies like the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and Trades Union Congress (TUC), as well as academic institutions – are attending, alongside co-chairs Clark and Maier.

Its priorities are to smarten up manufacturing in the north-west of the country, which Siemens has started work on already, and to establish an innovation fund that unites the enterprise and academic sectors.

It wants to hammer out a plan to bring Industry 4.0 to the industrial heartlands of Lancashire and Cumbria, which include Liverpool and Manchester,. Siemens chief Maier is leading the existing ‘made smarter’ pilot in the North West, which has been allocated a fund of around £20 million already.

“We will build on our North West pilot, and look at how we can scale our efforts up across the country,” he said. “If we get this right I believe we can kick start a new industrial revolution, that puts digital tech at the centre of economic policy making.”

The commission also wants to develop its new ‘industrial strategy challenge fund’, designed to unite academia and enterprise in pursuit of “the major industrial and societal challenges of our time”.

Adoption of new technologies and techniques like 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, and the urgent need for stronger leadership within the sector to drive industrial change are also on the agenda.

The idea is to tackle and master the government’s so-called ‘grand challenges’: data intelligence, ageing society, clean growth, and future mobility.

UK business secretary Greg Clark said: “The increased adoption of digital technologies will bring enormous benefits potentially generating £455 billion over the next 10 years – boosting productivity, creating thousands of new highly skilled jobs and enabling more efficient, cleaner production systems.

“We need strong partnership between government and industry which is why we have established the ‘made smarter commission’. I am proud that leading men and women from industry, business and academia are working with us to turn the ambition into a reality and enable everyone to reap the rewards.”

Maier said: “We need now more than ever to unite business, employees and government behind a strategy that boosts industrial productivity and improves living standards.”

Meanwhile, the 10 city regions will compete to draw down £840 million from the government’s £1.7 billion ‘transforming cities’ funds, to upgrade public transport links as part of the UK’s inter-linked ‘industrial strategy’ and ‘grand challenge’.

The money will cover bus routes between residential and employment areas, smart technologies to reduce congestion, and docking stations for e-bikes.

Local authorities in Derby & Nottingham, Leicester City, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire will bid for a share of the funding.

The shortlisted city regions will receive an initial £50,000 each, as well as support to develop their investment cases. While city regions finalise their proposals, £60 million will be made available to share across transport schemes tackling “the most pressing challenges” with UK mobility.

Final decisions on funding will consider the impact on connectivity, employment, and productivity. The government said its commitment will make travel safer and greener, and establish the UK as a “world leader in cutting-edge clean technology”.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Our great cities and their suburbs are home to millions of people and world-beating businesses. We want to help them succeed, so as part of our modern Industrial Strategy we will fund £840 million of upgrades for better, safer, faster transport links.

“These improvements to vital infrastructure will help spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs – opening up more opportunities to help people get on in life and be rewarded for their hard work.”

Under the ‘transforming cities’ fund, six mayoral authorities have so far received a share of £840 million to deliver mobility initiatives, notably the Brierley Hill tram-line extension in the West Midlands. A further £160 million has gone on the 1,000-mile Beeline Cycle Network in Greater Manchester – set to be the largest network of its kind in the UK.

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