Innovation Horizon Part 1: Big Data and Industry 4.0

Dr Caroline Elston-Giroud, European Grants Manager, explains three significant innovation trends covered at Innovate UK 2016 in her series of quick reference guides.

What are the grand challenges and innovations to help drive us towards 2030 and beyond?

Big questions in relatively uncertain times but, having just spent two days at Innovate 2016, I’m certain we have much to be positive about. Over my next three articles I want to
explain and demystify three significant trends on the horizon which could be about to change our everyday lives for the better.  Part 1 covers Big Data and Industry 4.0. Stay tuned to find out more on food chain innovation and next generation healthcare.

Big data and Industry 4.0

What is it?

The so called “4th industrial revolution” – in a nutshell, this is data becoming infrastructure, the backbone of everything we do, and the huge business opportunities that come from that.

How will it impact us day-to-day?

We all create data all the time but the big questions that still need to be answered are: how to harness it, how to extract meaningful information from it, curate it, and govern its usage? And for Industry 4.0 – how will this revolutionise processes and products? Data analysis can change the way we think about manufacturing and products. It can also drive up efficiency and productivity. This could come from the analysis of sensor data from a production line, from recent trends in the global pricing of raw materials, of distribution circuits and potential bottlenecks in the supply chain. Ultimately, it could mean creating and reading demand to better target and control manufacturing and supply.

So there are lots of opportunities?

Yes, for international collaborations with multi-business benefits, for market optimisation and global maximisation, and all of the advantages that this could have (technical, environmental, economic…)

All very well, but there must be complex challenges ahead too?

Data is a very powerful tool, and it is already starting to influence many aspects of our lives.There needs to be strong engagement with the public to de-mystify it, training for industry employees (efficiency shouldn’t obliterate flexibility), and for that we need strong policies and funding. Governance is also essential – creating and respecting standard ways of collecting and curating different types of data, making data-sets open so that everyone can benefit, and maintaining or updating these in the future. These aspects have to be tackled head on, and Industry 4.0 is doing just that.

What’s next?

In the UK there’s a lot to celebrate already and a solid platform to build upon to tackle these future grand challenges.

We have a strong Research & Development base in all areas of science and technology, from our excellent universities, strong and active SMEs, through to l larger corporations, all of whom are investing in R&D right here in the UK.

As a country, we are also putting in place structures to help translate fundamental or applied research in to higher TRL (Technology Readiness Level) prototypes and ultimately, commercial products. There are 11 Catapult Centres around the country who bridge between academia and business, and also the AIRTO Association of mid-size R&D and technology centres who help to turn good ideas in to new products and services.

As I hope you can see, there is much to be positive and confident about when looking to the future, and big trends such as Big Data and Industry 4.0, food chain innovation and next generation healthcare, will ultimately involve every single one of us.

Onwards and upwards. I’m ready, are you?

Want to pick Caroline’s brains? Get in touch!

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