Robot take-up by UK businesses needs incentivising by Government
The government should introduce tax incentives for companies looking to use robots and automation in order to increase the UK’s flagging competitiveness, a new report concludes.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee said the UK is lagging behind its G7 counterparts in “leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. It urges the government to come forward with a UK Robot and AI Strategy by the end of 2020 with measures designed to help businesses adopt greater automation.
The report warns against a ‘robot tax’, believing that such a tax would discourage take up of automation and that it would not be in the interest of businesses or workers in the UK.
Some countries, such as South Korea, are already considering taxes to try and reduce incentives for companies that are adopting worker replacement technology in order to slow the number of job losses.
Committee chairwoman, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, said the UK is way behind other G7 nations in its adoption of robot and automation technologies.
“The real danger for the UK economy and for future jobs growth is, however, not that we have too many robots in the workplace but that we have too few,” she said.
“For all the potential of the UK, and despite our excellent tech and research base, the fact is that we are lagging behind our international competitors in our adoption of robot and automation technologies.
“Productivity, economic growth and ultimately job-creation and higher earnings will flow to those countries that capitalise on these technologies.”
Reeves said the government “has failed to provide the leadership needed to help drive investment in automation and robot technologies”.
She added: “If we are to reap the potential benefits in the future of improved living standards, more fulfilling work and the four-day working week, the government needs to do more to support British businesses and universities to collaborate and innovate.”
The committee also calls for a greater focus on education and training in areas relating to automation and to support workers as the economy transitions in the coming years.
Paul Smith, Salesforce executive vice president, said: “This report is an important and timely contribution as the UK enters a critical phase of digital transformation. The economy is changing as new technologies emerge.
“To thrive in the fourth industrial revolution, UK businesses must maximise the benefits of automation to support business growth. Employees within British businesses - and particularly SMEs - spend too much time performing tasks that can be easily automated.
“Embracing technologies like AI and machine learning into the workplace means employees can focus their time and expertise on closing sales, strengthening client relationships or planning for the future.”
Earlier this week, the UK managing director of industrial robot supplier TM Robotics commented on how robot investment needs to look beyond the price tag. "The reward of robot investment clearly outweighs any risk," he said.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.