Jobs earning £30,000 or less are five times more vulnerable to automation than those with salaries of more than £100,000 © Press Association Images
Jobs earning £30,000 or less are five times more vulnerable to automation than those with salaries of more than £100,000 © Press Association Images

Political leadership lacking on robotics

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 October 2016

MPs are calling on the UK government to urgently develop a proper strategy around artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

In a report the Science and Technology Committee (STC) said the technologies had “the potential to reshape fundamentally the way we live and work” but “government leadership has been noticeably lacking”.

The STC said a Commission on Artificial Intelligence should be established to “identify principles to govern the development and application of AI” and a Leadership Council should be created “without delay” to develop a national robotics strategy.

“There is no government strategy for developing the skills, and securing the critical investment, that is needed to create future growth in robotics and AI,” said the report.

“Nor is there any sign of the government delivering on its promise to establish a RAS [robotics and automonous systems] Leadership Council to provide much needed coordination and direction.

“Without a government strategy for the sector, the productivity gains that could be achieved through greater uptake of the technologies across the UK will remain unrealised.”

The STC said it decided to conduct an inquiry into the technologies “after the government was unable to produce a short statement outlining the evidence underpinning its policy on AI”.

The report said research suggested jobs with salaries of £30,000 or less were five times more vulnerable to being automated than those with salaries of more than £100,000.

The sector with the highest number of jobs with a high risk of automation in the next 20 years was wholesale and retail, with 2.2m jobs or 59% of the total current workforce, followed by transport and storage (1.5m jobs or 74% of the workforce) and human health and social work (1.4m jobs or 28% of the workforce).

The report quoted research that said £1.24bn in automation investment could raise the overall value added by the manufacturing sector to the UK economy by £60.5bn over the next decade.

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