The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

As we plan our way forward following the Brexit decision, the world according to many is entering a new industrial era.  Technologies are emerging and affecting our lives in ways that indicate we are at the beginning of a new industrial revolution, a new era of digitisation that will affect society in new and unanticipated ways.

Following three industrial revolutions in the past two hundred and fifty years, commencing with steam followed by electricity and41r subsequently electronics and the internet, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is characterised by an exponential increase in automation, digital connectivity and technological innovation with less reliance on labour.  This is evidenced by a breakthrough and new products in fields such as artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, driverless cars, drones, 3D printing and nanotechnology as examples.

A House of Commons debate on 8th September 2016, brought by Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con), discussed the 4IR for the first time at government level.  You are, however, guaranteed to hear alot more about it in the future.

For the UK to grow and prosper, the message was that both government and business need to embrace the new era enthusiastically and for the government to develop supporting policies to keep the UK at the forefront of this revolution. 

The debate resulted in a motion which included calls for the government to:

  • make available regional investment funds for 4IR technologies 
  • use its procurement power to buy British when it comes to 4IR products
  • continue to invest in its digital infrastructure 

The debate also recognised that while the 4IR offers significant economic benefits, it will potentially cause social challenges as automation in ‘smart’ environments increasingly substitutes for human labour where the displacement of workers by machines could result in short-term unemployment, especially in low-skill or low-wage sectors of the economy.  Welfare, education and training policies will perhaps have an even more vital part to play in the future than they do now.

To read the full debate please find available online here.

The BFM along with a number of partners from other EU countries have secured a European funded project that is directly connected to 4IR.  Across the EU there is a shortage of professionals with high-level qualifications in ICTs and other emerging technologies.  The project will concentrate on critical skills and competencies that affect furniture production and customised products and develop guides and training materials including modules to help equip the industry with the necessary knowledge and resource base it needs, both now and for the future.  We will keep you abreast of developments.