Automation and robotics provide the biggest opportunity for manufacturing to close the productivity gap between the UK and its industrial competitors, delegates at a major automation conference at the Manufacturing Technology Centre were told.
Delegates heard that the wider adoption of industrial robots and automation presented UK industry with a major opportunity to improve competitiveness and drive the opportunity to reshore operations from overseas.
The two-day Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective event at the MTC was designed to enable attendees from a range of industries from aerospace and agriculture to food production, infrastructure, nuclear and defence, to share insights into the transformational benefits of cutting-edge robotic technologies and encourage take-up of automation.
Participants included academics, equipment vendors, integrators and government as well as representatives from a wide range of industry sectors.
Among the speakers was leading economist and entrepreneur John Mills, founder of consumer goods company JML who highlighted the need to increase investment to grow manufacturing and so ensure the future prosperity of the country. In his keynote speech he said:
Rosa Wilkinson, director of policy at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult told the conference that it was the ambition of the HVMC to double the contribution of manufacturing to the UK economy. Mike Wilson, chief automation officer at the MTC, said:
The conference built on the recommendations of a report compiled by MTC robotics experts and the Industrial Policy Research Centre at Loughborough University. The report, entitled Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective.
The report called for more knowledge-sharing between robotics users and an emphasis on skills, as well as a greater understanding among the investor and finance community of the business benefits of automation. These themes formed the basis of discussions at the conference. Speakers included Charlotte Horrobin, Midlands and East of England director of Make UK, Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology, Adam Vicary, chief executive of Castings plc and Sarah Huntingdon, head of innovation at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
As well as traditional manufacturing the conference was aimed at the construction and infrastructure sectors, utilities, the food and drink industry, agriculture and sectors which involve hazardous environments including nuclear and space.
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