Taking action on climate change and reversing environmental decline, tapping into the power of new digital technologies, should be central to the UK government’s plans to rebuild the economy, says a new report by Green Alliance’s Tech Task Force.
This autumn, the UK government is expected to update its industrial strategy. The Tech Task Force, which comprises leading businesses and innovation agencies, says that the strategy should consider government drives for digital and low carbon development as linked priorities across all parts of the economy, to put businesses on the best footing to compete internationally and support the jobs of the future.
Using the power of digital technology to speed up the transition to a low carbon economy is a win-win for the environment and the economy
When used to help business operations shift to low carbon, digital applications can boost profits through significant energy and resource savings. For example, digitally enabled energy efficiency could save UK businesses £6 billion a year by 2030.
And the 2017 Made Smarter review estimated that, by 2027, digital technology could add £38.2 billion to the construction sectors’ bottom line and that £13.2 billion could be saved by food manufacturers, through better use of resources.
South Korea, Singapore and Germany are already ahead of the UK on industrial digitalisation.
And the EU is planning to boost low carbon industry, with a focus on digitalisation, as part of its Green Deal. China has also announced plans to invest $1.4 trillion to 2025 in digitally enabled infrastructure.
The report, Smart and Green: joining up digital and environmental priorities to drive the UK’s economic recovery, points to the need to drive a step change in digital adoption across UK businesses. So far, fewer than one in five UK manufacturers make extensive use of digital technology in their operations.
And three in four construction firms believe their sector is not digitalising fast enough.
However, the task force says that, unless the government actively connects the digitalisation and decarbonisation agendas, UK businesses might miss the opportunity to futureproof their investments in digital solutions, with the risk of falling behind in growing global low carbon economy.
Caterina Brandmayr, head of climate policy at Green Alliance, said: “Using the power of digital technology to speed up the transition to a low carbon economy is a win-win for the environment and the economy.
We must adopt the new technologies which bring us into the digitalisation era and cut carbon to unlock greater productivity and efficiency in business
“Smart solutions not only help to cut carbon and save resources but also increase productivity and profits for business. Joining up digital and low carbon strategies should be right at the heart of the government’s recovery plans.”
Nikesh Mistry, Sector Head Industrial Automation of GAMBICA, the Trade Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology, said: “Combining efforts to bring about the fourth industrial revolution and meet the net zero target would make sure UK industry remains champion in an uncertain world.
“We must adopt the new technologies which bring us into the digitalisation era and cut carbon to unlock greater productivity and efficiency in business.”
Rodney Turtle, VP for public policy and government affairs at Schneider Electric, said: “Digital technology can be transformational in making better use of energy across our economy, boosting business efficiency and cutting unnecessary costs.
“Technical solutions to accelerate progress are already available and the UK should race ahead in making the most of these new opportunities by embedding digital and low carbon priorities in the plans for the recovery.”