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Digital technologies – calls for a national scheme to modernise UK manufacturing

UK manufacturing has taken significant steps in adopting digital technologies with some 80% confident that Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) will be a reality in their businesses by 2025, according to new research from Make UK.

The research highlights the growing use of 3D printers, AI, IoT, Augmented and Virtual Reality across companies of all sizes, but warns that a significant number of SMEs still remain at the digital ‘starting block’.
A lack of skills and technical knowledge remain a problem, but so too does a scarcity of finance which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Make UK says that a lack of knowledge of available Government schemes, and an absence of targeted digital implementation help for SMEs, is also holding back progress.

Unlike other countries, such as Germany and Japan, the UK doesn’t have extensive support systems in place to help its SMEs modernise. But there are a number of very successful regional efforts driving digitalisation.

The Made Smarter pilot in the North West has significantly boosted digital adoption – providing a comprehensive package of SME digital support - financial help for IDT investment purchases, access to a complete advisory service to ensure the right choice of technologies and training in how to use them to best advantage.

Clearly this model is working and, according to Make UK, makes a strong case for national rollout. It’s calling for fiscal incentives to support digitalisation as well as additional investment allowances for technology related investments.

Digitalisation is critical for the future success of UK manufacturing. The Government needs to step up and do more to encourage businesses to embrace digitalisation.

Neil Tyler

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