The Great Northern Conference in Leeds has welcomed Keith Ridgway and Juergen Maier, who talked about their vision for an innovation-led Fourth Industrial Revolution that combines the engineering research talents of the region’s universities with a fast-growing northern skills base being built at places like the AMRC Training Centre in Rotherham.
Also joining Siemens CEO, Mr Maier, was Professor Ridgway, one of the founders of the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and a staunch advocate of deploying manufacturing research to rebalance the economy.
“We’ve seen what happens when an economy becomes dangerously dependent on the financial sector. A better balanced economy needs a thriving, innovative, advanced manufacturing sector, and what better place to grow such a sector than the region where it all began: The North,” said Ridgway.
“Manufacturing creates value and is fundamental to the success of the UK economy, driving innovation, exports, high quality job creation, growth and productivity. It spans a vast and diverse range of industries from aerospace, rail, automotive and pharmaceuticals to food and drink,” added Ridgway of a sector that generated more than £180 billion GVA in 2017, accounting for 10% of UK output, almost half of UK exports and 2.7 million jobs, or more than 5 million if the value chain is included.
Both Ridgway and Maier were invited to the Yorkshire Post and Northern Powerhouse sponsored event because they are leaders in what is increasingly known as industrial digitalisaton, or the fourth industrial revolution: a revolution driven by the convergence of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, data analytics, and themes such as the integration of the physical and digital worlds.
“Manufacturing contributes almost 70% of UK R&D business expenditure. With the support of the Industrial Strategy and the Made Smarter review it will also play a significant role in helping meet the government’s hugely ambitious target of 2.4% investment in R&D by 2027 to boost productivity and competitiveness. The introduction of new technologies and business models will translate into other sectors to spread the benefits to other businesses across the economy – supporting our ambition to be a globally innovative economy.”
Juergen Maier, whose company is a strategic partner of the University of Sheffield, recently used the AMRC’s flagship Factory 2050 – the place where digital meets manufacturing – to declare that the fourth industrial revolution will be made in the north, not in Whitehall or London.
“We have the innovative research talent, the technical skills base and the partnership culture with the private and the public sectors to make things happen here in the North; and to make them happen smarter,” he concluded.