Can the fourth industrial evolution take place in the UK? It depends on improvements to digital infrastructure, says EEF

Can the fourth industrial evolution take place in the UK? It depends on improvements to digital infrastructure, says EEF

A survey recently conducted by EEF (the Manufacturers’ Association) in the last quarter of 2015 found that the majority of respondents consider internet connectivity increasingly central to their operations and a boost to their productivity. Whilst the research found that the current infrastructure is adequate to meet their current business needs, manufacturers are concerned about the UK’s potential to compete at international level; the EEF claims that Britain’s success in leading the fourth industrial revolution depends on improvements to affordability and internet infrastructure.

91% of respondents to the survey said that a high-speed internet connection was “as essential to business as electricity and water”. British manufacturers are willing to pay for a reliable and fast connection (over a third are spending more than £5000 but 44% believe the costs have recently increased due to “upgrades to leased lines, installation of backup lines, and superfast upgrades”. It is worth noting that in 2014, manufacturers rated “broadband networks as the most improved infrastructure networks”.

The capacity to attract or retain manufacturers in the UK depends on the quality of the internet infrastructure. 62% of firms plan to “invest more in internet connected capital equipment in the next five years” and over 50% said that “their current internet connection isn’t adequate enough for their expected needs over the next five years”. Only 19% of respondents believe that compared to other EU countries, the UK is lagging behind in terms of internet connectivity.

Amongst other recommendations, EEF is calling for Government “to ensure that the UK has a modern business environment” and for reprioritising policies focusing on business connectivity. It is also calling for a review of competition for business broadband (with a focus on leased lines) with the aim of getting the cost of businesses falling over this Parliament.

 

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