Investment in automation is increasing and is set to accelerate in the next two years leading to an increase in higher levels of skills. Make UK found that more than a quarter of companies (28%) said they will have less need for lower skilled roles.
Manufacturers also said that they felt that the UK was failing to keep up with its competitors, blaming a lack of technical skills and poor data integration and workplace culture.
Consequently, Make UK is urging the government to roll out the successful Made Smarter scheme nationwide to help SMEs adopt digital technologies, as well as work with companies to address the continued shortfall of technical skills in the workforce.
The survey found that 55% of companies have already implemented or, are planning to implement, AI and Machine Learning to automate decision making processes and improve operational efficiency, while 80% have already introduced or are planning to introduce, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality techniques in areas such as design and prototyping.
As well as calling for the roll-out of the Made Smarter scheme, Make UK urged the government to make the full expensing of capital allowances permanent; expand the R&D tax credit to include capital expenditure to support digitalised R&D and to work with business organisations and sector specific bodies to help SME engagement with the Catapult Centres.
With these technologies now widely available and increasingly affordable the UK government has a critical role in helping businesses overcome some of the hurdles associated with adopting digital technologies.