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South Korea, Singapore and Germany top digitalization markets

Research points to Asia and Europe continuing to lead global industrial digitalization, with most strategies focused on AI and advanced manufacturing.

BloombergNEF’s (BNEF) 2020 national industrial digitalization ranking report has found that South Korea, Singapore and Germany top the rankings with both Asia and Europe leading the way, with each region taking four of the top 10 spots.

In fourth spot was the UK, followed by China, which ranked fifth and the US which took seventh place. Since BNEF’s first review in July 2019, 21 countries have launched national AI strategies and 14 have launched digitalized manufacturing initiatives.

South Korea took the top spot, advancing from third place in BNEF’s 2019 ranking. The move was propelled by policy developments like a national AI strategy and its ‘new deal’ recovery package which set digitalization and green technology as top national priorities. Several pieces of legislation have also helped to solidify the link between digitalization and sustainability globally in 2020, with leading nations elevating these two imperatives as vital elements for future economic growth.

BNEF’s annual ranking highlights the top countries for industrial digital transformation and technology development, taking into account policy, technology, investment, education levels, and venture funding.

Danya Liu, lead author and digital industry analyst at BNEF, said: “The ranking reveals the markets where industrial systems – from manufacturing to power distribution – are likely to experience the fastest improvements in efficiency thanks to smart technology. Perhaps more importantly, they also indicate which governments are positioned to become new global technology leaders.”

Digitalization has become an increasingly important part of government policy as nations have struggled to prop up Covid-19 impacted economies and government digital strategies are being aimed at boosting industrial competitiveness and building capabilities in key technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

According to BNEF, AI remains the top technology focus as countries race to establish themselves as leaders. National AI strategies generally address two fronts: forming incentives to boost adoption, and setting standards for ethical development.

BNEF recorded 21 countries that have adopted national AI strategies since the 2019 rankings. Several more South American and African countries were expected to launch AI policies this year, but progress was stalled due to Covid-19.

Manufacturing competitiveness remains the priority for global industrial digital policies – 14 countries announced new initiatives to digitalize manufacturing since last summer. Many governments (14 since the 2019 report) are also digitalizing their power, mining, agriculture and oil sectors with policies and incentives.

Table 1: Top 10 countries in the BNEF 2020 national industrial digitalization ranking

1. South Korea

2. Singapore

3. Germany

4. U.K.

5. China

6. Japan

7. U.S.

8. France

9. Canada

10. Sweden

Neil Tyler

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