Britain could miss out on opportunities as a fourth industrial revolution takes hold globally, manufacturing body EEF has warned.
The trade body says a new period of transformation, dubbed ‘Industry 4.0’, will be driven by widescale adoption of technology and automation.
Research released ahead of EEF’s National Manufacturing Conference shows growing concerns that Britain’s manufacturers may not keep up with international competitors unless a strategy is developed at Government level.
While eight out of 10 (88 per cent) of manufacturers predicted ‘technological’ to dominate manufacturing by 2025, 58 per cent said the UK is at risk of being left behind in the process.
EEF said the country’s ability to be a frontrunner in the new era “hangs in the balance”.
Andy Tuscher, Yorkshire and Humber region director at EEF, said: “The fourth industrial revolution will change the global face of manufacturing beyond recognition.
“The UK must take a leading role if we are to realise our ambitions for a healthy, balanced and growing economy.
“The next decade will bring great and rapid change and the early-adopting nations will maximise the opportunities presented by new technologies and thrive as a result.
“There will inevitably be winners and losers, which is why we should take note when manufacturers say there is a real danger of the UK being left behind.”
Two-thirds of the 206 senior decision makers polled for the research said the UK will only be able to compete globally if it is able to keep up with advances in technology.
However, just 14 per cent said they thought the UK was in a position to do this.
Seven out of ten of those surveyed raised concerns about the level of investment required to compete in a technologically-driven world.
The impact on the supply and demand of skills was highlighted as an issue for 59 per cent, while 58 per cent said keeping on top of technological advances would itself be a challenge.
While the new industrial world could be difficult to navigate for manufacturers, 69 per cent of respondents said it will play to the UK’s strengths in high-value manufacturing.
Around two-thirds (63 per cent) said there would be greater demand for skilled workers as a result of the changes, while 55 per cent believed technologically-enhanced industry would increase the value and importance of manufacturing in the UK.
Half of manufacturers said the coming changes would hasten the trend for the reshoring of manufacturing to the UK.
Nearly nine out of 10 (85 per cent) said a long-term industrial strategy that spans consecutive governments is needed to make the most of the upcoming opportunities.
Mr Tuscher added: “Our sector’s ability to remain on top of the fourth industrial wave hinges on the decisions made over the next decade by consecutive governments.
“We must continue to establish the foundations to support our manufacturing renaissance, particularly in investment and skills.
“It is vital the Government steps up to this challenge and works with manufacturers and academia to ensure the UK is not left behind.”
Yorkshire has three of the seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres.