The great cities of the North are the only ones that can drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution according to key industrial advisor to the Government’s Industrial Strategy team.
Professor Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK and author of the Made Smarter Review, a pivotal document in the government’s Industrial Strategy, championed the North’s credentials last week.
It is great to hear someone as influential as Maier come out and give industry across the north this kudos, especially as a northerner myself with a passion for manufacturing and Industry 4.0.
In a tub-thumping speech in the heart of Yorkshire’s industrial heartland of Sheffield, it was like the battle cry of a medieval King rallying the troops ahead of the fight.
“Leading the next Industrial Revolution cannot be done from Whitehall; it cannot be done from London. It can only be done in the North,” he proclaimed.
“This is our chance to reverse 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.”
Anyone championing Industry 4.0 and this region gets my backing. Maier is a man of influence, working closely with government and sitting on the board of the Northern Powerhouse.
But in this same speech he highlighted the chronic situation when to comes to businesses embracing technology, especially the SMEs.
Only EIGHT per cent of manufacturing companies understand Industry 4.0, while an incredible 76 per cent have no understanding at all.
When I hear this, I wonder how the North drive will forward this technological revolution that will deliver not just for the region but also for the UK PLC as a whole.
But there are other areas that also need to be resolved, I firmly believe, if the North is to be powerhouse it is striving to be.
The first is the transportation links between the major cities. The poor state of the infrastructure is a hindrance to economic growth. Plans may be in place for the likes of HS2 to reach the north – but how long are we actually talking before we see the first train?
The routes between these economic hubs of Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield need to be vastly improved, using Industry 4.0 technology where feasible too.
Also, I feel the geographical scope of the Northern Powerhouse should reach further and not just have an apparent focus on the north west and West Yorkshire.
But the North East, which has high unemployment, and many of the smaller town across the north – need to be embraced more and brought into this digital revolution.