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A Strategy For Industry: Development Plus Diffusion

Posted on 27/11/2017

A perspective from Ben Peace, KTN's Head of Manufacturing, on the government's long-awaited industrial strategy unveiled today.

Ben Peace, Head of Manufacturing, KTN

The government unveiled its long-awaited industrial strategy today. Here at the Knowledge Transfer Network we have been involved in supporting its development, for instance scoping out and delivering support to address challenges & opportunities like robots and artificial intelligence. More significantly however, our ongoing remit is fundamentally about supporting industry – drawing out the fantastic knowledge, ideas and creativity that our country excels in, and helping transfer those to industry. We know where the cutting edge knowledge, ideas, creativity and facilities reside, and we make effective links that drive industrial innovation – across sectors and across the whole of the UK.

Driving a New Industrial Revolution

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said, “Powered by new technologies, the way we live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed across the world. Britain is extraordinarily well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution”. KTN are supporting this revolution in the context of manufacturing through our 4Manufacturing initiative, which we conceived based on recognising (i) our low manufacturing productivity and (ii) the huge contribution that digitally-enabled technologies (like additive manufacturing, augmented & virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence) could make in tackling this challenge. The initiative delivers one-to-one support to manufacturers to help them understand how they might make sense of these technologies and the novel business models that they facilitate. It doesn’t force jargon onto the manufacturers; it’s as much “for” manufacturing as it is “fourth industrial revolution”. We have seen how a one-to-one dialogue – framed in the right way and delivered on an impartial basis – is necessary to help manufacturing SMEs know where to start; helping them map out a journey to the increased productivity and resilience that these digital approaches offer, and enabling that journey by making links to the right partners and funding.

Local Industrial Strategies

Through 4Manufacturing we’ve developed a framework and proven that the approach works with 175 SMEs across different sectors and regions. We’re now looking to show that the same approach works when deployed in partnership with regionally based stakeholders (such as Local Enterprise Partnerships and Growth Hubs). This will demonstrate a route to scaling up the initiative and the provision of access across all parts of the country. As well as helping the manufacturers themselves, the aggregated data that this model will provide will provide tremendous evidence for government and its partners as to what further support (such as funding, demonstrators, fundamental research) might be needed. This approach echoes the industrial strategy with its recognition of the need to recognise regional strengths and “foster the local ecosystems that can support innovation and sustained growth”.

Keeping at the Forefront of technology

We also work closely with our Special Interest Groups and teams such as emerging technologies that support the development of the next wave of technologies. It is no coincidence that these special interest groups cover the digital technologies highlighted above. We know that these technologies will significantly change the way manufacturers operate, so it is hugely encouraging to see the Government invest further in them.

Through this kind of approach, KTN supports both the development, and also the adoption (or “diffusion”) of innovative technologies and business models. We look forward to continuing to work in this way to support the industrial strategy in enabling a prosperous and resilient future for our industry.

To find out more, sign up to our newsletters, and/or come to events like the Industry 4.0 Summit where I’ll be introducing three manufacturers that are adopting these approaches, or our event on regional productivity in the Northwest