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Report Praises British Data Expertise But Warns Of Brexit Challenges

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

New report from data businesses praises British data expertise and government, and also predicts post-Brexit productivity boost

A new report has praised the government and offered a reassuring prediction of the UK post Brexit, but has warned that challenges remain.

The report entitled ‘UK Fourth Industrial Revolution Report’ examined how 250 of the UK’s largest data-driven organisations are coping with pre-Brexit pressure, against their ‘data-savvy competitors’ in the rest of the world.

The first findings will make welcome reading for the government, as it paints a mostly positive outlook in the years ahead as the UK exits the European Union.

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The report was sponsored by Big Data LDN and Hortonworks and was released at the Big Data London (BDL) conference in London.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) report is so named because of what is called the data revolution, coming after steam power, computing and the World Wide Web revolution.

The report broadly paints a picture of an economy in flux, but it highlights that Big Data for example is used more for analysis of today’s consumer spending habits and less for designing tomorrow’s new products and services.

This is because the report found that 58 percent of UK organisations use data to analyse existing customer engagement and loyalty as to develop new products (13 percent).

The report believes that the UK’s data experts are “world-class and the UK can easily cope in future, especially in the face of increased EU data protection laws by providing more opportunities to capitalise on the hidden value of both existing and new datasets.”

And the report said that there was also cause for optimism with almost all UK large businesses have a data strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

And skills wise things are looking good as UK firms look to bridge any skill gaps by self-sufficiency. Indeed, businesses are encouraging the upskilling of existing staff who already understand their business’ operational model, rather than outsourcing vital data analysis activities.

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When asked how they would obtain the skill sets needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 60 percent of respondents said they would identify and redeploy staff with transferable skills. Only 2 percent of UK businesses surveyed will outsource.

Looking to the needed technologies to ensure future growth, 29 percent of UK businesses said they need Enterprise Information Management; 27 percent identified self-service data preparation; and 25 percent said cloud platforms.

But the report was a bit less clear on the impact of Brexit, and its impact on the UK’s role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report stated that “UK PLC will remain competitive globally,” and said that just 10 percent see their organisation becoming less competitive globally.

However that was tempered by 38 percent of respondents saying that UK organisations will have less access to data from European partners.

Yet Brexit also provides opportunities to boost revenue, as 44 percent believe Brexit will boost innovation in their organisation’s data usage and nearly a third (32 percent) of UK data leaders believe this country has the ability to create its own world-class legislation.

Data Is The New Oil

“This report draws much needed attention to how British businesses can use data for product design and process innovation, adding value in new ways, lowering costs, and giving more choice to the consumer,” explained MP Alan Mak, Chair of the All-Party group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Data will be as important to the British economy in this century as oil was in the previous one, so it is vital that as we prepare for Brexit we invest wisely in the skills and new technologies needed to harness the opportunities of the 4IR.”

“These findings lay bare the challenge facing the UK, if we aspire to lead the charge in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as we have with every other industrial revolution,” added Big Data LDN founder, Bill Hammond.

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“Britain’s data leaders are, perhaps overly, confident they can redeploy talent and build data-driven businesses which turn Brexit and GDPR into global sales advantages. If we can guard against complacency, stay at the forefront of technical advances and, critically, muster the human resources required, there seems genuine cause for optimism for the UK in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The report’s optimistic tone about data is counter to what one firm told Silicon UK earlier this year.

Big data and analytics firm Beyond Analysis said that it that many organisations were still nervous about getting involved in big data analysis, despite the prominent role it now plays in virtually every sector.

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