The Conservatives must prepare our Economy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way that we go about our daily lives, and with this change our economy must adapt too by embracing disruptive technologies.

Ideas that were once the preserve of science fiction, such as 3D-bioprinting and virtual reality prototyping, are now a reality in workplaces and factories across our country. The rapid pace at which technology is advancing continues to shake-up the business world and with this advancement comes the challenge of ensuring that our economy allows for both innovation and adaptability in the years ahead.

Today we are witnessing the unprecedented fusion of new technologies that blur the traditional lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.

Disruptive innovations are constantly changing the way that we think, work, travel, shop and play – and with this comes the challenge of creating the right economic and regulatory framework for the future. Economic and societal disruption is a process, rather than a destination. This process is transforming almost every industry, in every country and is doing at breakneck-speed. The fear of being disrupted now equals the fear of poor productivity for any business as disruptive innovation has the potential to render even the most established of brands irrelevant in the digital age. Companies are now becoming much less human-intensive and much more technology-centric. With this, the role of people within the workplace will change from “doing” to “thinking” and this same transformation will be needed in both the public and the private sectors in the years ahead.

At this election, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour have re-opened the debate on capitalism and the value of free market economics. With Labour pledging to nationalise broadband in Britain – following previous support for a “robot tax” and banning Uber in London – the potential opportunities of the 4IR for Britain will only be realised under a Conservative Government. Beyond their broadband Bolshevism, turning away from market-based innovations, which for example, have brought about advancements in healthcare and led the way in fighting climate change, should be feared as a backward step in achieving the goal of a global, interconnected Britain which delivers for everyone.

As highlighted in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, it is highly likely that your future career may not even exist yet, and that is why we must have an economic system which is adaptable and encourages innovation. In the next Parliament, we Conservatives must focus on creating an Opportunity Society centred around social mobility, which in turn is powered by lifelong learning, high-quality education and skills training.

If we are able to secure this as the golden thread throughout our policy platform, then Britain will not only shape, but indeed lead, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Despite the dominance of Brexit in the political agenda, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has presided over a Government which has already hit the ground running when it comes to backing science, technology and innovation. From providing an extra investment of £14 billion for our schools across the country to his commitment to boosting cyber-skills education, the Prime Minister in his own words understands that “a great education is the most important thing any of us can have”. To ensure that the United Kingdom remains a global leader in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he has further pledged that the next Conservative government will increase our Research and Development (R&D) investment to £18 Billion. This investment will secure further R&D capacity whilst nurturing our already-vibrant start-up culture. Government acting as an enabler, as opposed to a nanny-state regulator, is what sets the Conservative Party apart from Labour when it comes to supporting innovation.

Disruptive technology is changing the way that both employees work, and companies operate. To adapt to this dramatic change, we need to see the tax system simplified to reflect the evolving, streamlined nature of employment within the digital age too.

In order for people to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Government must make further investments into STEM education to foster a new generation of thinkers and makers and ensure that we have global leadership in Science and Mathematics. After we have departed the European Union, we must encourage a renewed culture of innovation to maintain the United Kingdom’s status as a “science superpower”.

In the next Parliament we Conservatives must do more to build public trust in the 4IR and present it as the most positive economic and social phenomenon of our time. To ensure that the fruits of the 4IR are available to everyone, the challenge of the next Government will be to nurture an economy in which disruptive technologies deliver at both macro-economic and local community levels.

We should be in no doubt that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening, and as Conservatives it is our responsibility to ensure that Britain leads the way.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be the defining political and economic issue of the next decade and as with the Industrial Revolutions of the past, the decisions that policy makers implement today will impact the wellbeing of our country for generations to come. The next Conservative Government must put Britain’s leadership of the 4IR at the top of its economic agenda, so that our economy can prepare to seize the opportunities of new and disruptive technologies.

Alan Mak is the Conservative MP Candidate for Havant, and Founder & Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group in the 2017-19 Parliament.