The North of England is the best place to lead a new digitally-based industrial revolution which could create 175,000 new jobs, one of the county’s top business leaders will say today.
Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK and a key industrial adviser to the Government’s Industrial Strategy team, will say that Yorkshire and the North is the best place to deliver the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, one driven by technological innovation becoming imbedded within all businesses.
In a speech in front of northern industrialists and engineers at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Mr Maier will say delivering the change can only come from the North of England and that businesses large and small should embrace the benefits of technological change rather than fear it.
Mr Maier, whose firm Siemens is investing millions of pounds into wind turbine manufacturing and railway factories in Yorkshire, will say: “Leading the next Industrial Revolution cannot be done from Whitehall; it cannot be done from London. It can only be done in the North.
“This city of Sheffield was world-renowned for high-quality steel production, but fell into decline as the industry collapsed and cheaper alternatives across the world became available. We should all be determined that we do not let this happen again.
“This is our chance to reverse that decline and create the high-skilled jobs for generations to come. Through embracing technology we can lead the world once again – exporting new Northern industries all over the globe.
“Many of our smaller firms have led the way. Now we want thousands more to come on board. There is nothing to fear but plenty to gain.”
However Mr Maier also warns that a major obstacle to this revolution remains a lack of awareness of what is on offer among smaller and medium sized companies (SMEs). He cites figures showing only eight per cent of manufacturing companies understand the Fourth Industrial Revolution or digitalisation, with 76 per cent having no understanding at all. This, coupled with a fear of change and automation, has led many companies to shy away from incorporating cutting-edge technology.
Ben Morgan who heads Factory 2050’s Integrated Manufacturing Group said Mr Maier’s remarks were “a wake-up call for industry across the North of England”.
“If we don’t exploit these technologies to the full, manufacturing in the UK will continue to be vulnerable to competition from early adopting countries across Europe and the Far East,” he said.
Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “As the cradle of the first industrial revolution, the north of England sent new products to the world. Now we need the infrastructure, research, innovation and skills which will enable us to lead in the era of Industry 4.0.”