THE NORTH CAN BE AT THE HEART OF A DIGITAL REVOLUTION

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THE NORTH CAN BE AT THE HEART OF A DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Carl Ennis, Managing Director, Energy Management, Siemens AG

The North of England has a strong tradition of manufacturing and Siemens is proud to have a strong manufacturing presence in the region. One of the things which encourages investment in manufacturing is a commitment to being at the cutting edge of new technologies – and right now we see significant potential for the region to become a leader in digital business.

If it were a country, the Northern Powerhouse would have the 10th biggest economy in Europe. And, with seven international airports, 12 major ports and 20 universities, the region is responsible for 25% of the UK’s total manufacturing output and almost a third of the UK’s total renewable electricity.

By combining the region’s deep manufacturing experience and growing digital awareness, this would certainly create a new wave of industrial growth, investment and highly paid jobs. So how do we do this?

Showcasing the innovative spirit of the north through events such as the Great Exhibition of the North will go some way to bringing these businesses and ideas together and show how the region can underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For a digital revolution to take off we will need the right skills.  Innovation clusters depend on highly skilled workers – not only coders and programmers, but also people with the right sales and marketing expertise.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership aims to create 850,000 new jobs by 2050. But we believe these jobs need to be at the heart of the digital revolution. We need to create jobs building, servicing and programming the robots, designing the software and making best use of the 3D printers.

According to Tech North, the UK’s digital economy is expected to require an extra 760,000 digital workers between 2015 and 2020 – we should aspire to make sure a large proportion of this comes here to the north.

Siemens is committed to making sure these skills are in the right place. We have opened three ‘MindSphere Labs’ across the region in partnership with leading universities, to give students, researchers and business access to innovative ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) technology. This will help to accelerate digitalisation and boost skills to meet the needs of an increasingly digitalised industry and society. It also allows universities to translate their research into real world impact by harnessing the power of digitalisation.

Using digital technologies to transform business operations is key for the UK to upscale competitiveness, improve national productivity and take advantage of the commercial opportunities offered by an increasingly digitalised industry.

For example, The University of Newcastle’s Urban Sciences Building is also home to the Siemens MindSphere Application Centre (MAC) for Connected Batteries, which is part of a global network of innovation hubs. The MAC supports the digital drive and by working with customers to solve real world problems, unlocking real value for the end user.

Production and productivity will be driven by this focus on digital expertise. The future for the region’s manufacturing will not just be about the ‘physical making of things’ – it will be about developing a strong digital backbone for the services offered domestically and internationally. It will be a core part of our global offering as a region.

Put simply – advanced economies across the globe are investing in digital manufacturing because it is where the future jobs and value will be created. The north, with its manufacturers leading the way, can compete on this same basis by investing in the latest technologies too.

The first Industrial Revolution centered on the North of England. Only the North has the history, the foundations and the people capable of rejuvenating industry. The unique characteristics of the Northern Powerhouse mean this region can and must lead this new Industrial Revolution.

Our industrial heritage of making, building and innovating led to the North exporting goods all over the world. We have the tools to do so again and new jobs, growth and productivity will surely follow.