Organisations in all sectors will have to radically change their operational and business models if they are to survive the digital revolution, delegates at NEF’s annual Innovisions conference heard last week.
Innovisions, the 11th annual conference by NEF: The Innovation Institute brought together industry leaders and influencers from a broad spectrum of sectors including transport, power generation, defence, construction, banking, education and healthcare.
Delegates heard how new technologies such as big data, mobile technology, cognitive computing and the internet of things are speeding up the process of innovation. But sectors and industries that do not adapt to the new digital landscape risk being left behind or could even reach paralysis, delegates heard.
Mark Carne, CEO of Network Rail stressed the importance of digital innovation for transforming major infrastructure industries such as rail. More than 4.5 passengers use the railway in Britain every day and this number is predicted to double within the next 25 years. Carne said:
“Use of our rail system is growing faster than anywhere else in Europe. Building new railways such as HS1, HS2, Crossrail and Thameslink only partly addresses the problem. Creating a digitised signalling system could unlock enormous capacity in our network. In urban areas we could potentially increase the number of trains we run by as much as 40%. A digitised railway will lead to more reliable trains, safer journeys and increase the safety of our maintenance workers.”
“Our industry needs a complete transformation. If we don’t tackle this problem fast, we are going to hit a capacity crisis. We need to build a strong coalition with a very fragmented industry to find ways to overcome the barriers to innovation.”
Mark Elborne President and CEO of GE, UK and Ireland described the escalating power of the industrial internet of things, which has the potential to drive 20% efficiencies across all industrial sectors. Predicting that 50 billion machines would be connected to the cloud by 2020, he emphasised the importance of open innovation, adding:
“By 2020, the industrial internet of things could be worth US$225 billion. As soon as companies embrace this technological revolution, they will reap the financial benefits.”
Elborne said that GE was building a ‘digital thread’ that connected all parts of its manufacturing process including product design, engineering, supply chain partners and service operators.
The company has designed and created an industrial-strength cloud-based platform, Predix which not only supports and accelerates innovation at GE, but is also open to developers of industrial applications in any sector.
Elborne added: “Continued investment in traditional technologies is no longer enough. Industrial companies need to think about the cloud and big data and digital platforms and to think about people and talent differently.”
Other keynote speakers included Julian Wilson, Head of Mobile Innovation at Barclays, who talked about the challenges and opportunities that crypto currencies and mobile payment mechanisms are bringing to the financial sector. Andres Martin Diana, Global Digital Health Director for Bupa, described how big data and mobile phone applications are being used to improve the health and wellbeing for large sections of the population at low cost. Bupa has launched a range of applications to tackle common health issues including helping people to quit smoking and to improve their stress levels.
Hosting the conference, NEF: The Innovation Institute’s Chief Executive Professor Sa’ad Medhat said:
“The digital revolution is accelerating the pace of innovation across all sectors. In order to stay ahead, organisations must be prepared for radical change: rebuilding their models and processes as well as sharing data more widely.
“As we have heard today, this presents enormous challenges for our trainers and educational institutions. The UK is predicted to have the largest digital skills gap in Europe by 2020. It’s estimated that we will require an extra 150,000 workers with digital skills annually from 2017.
“The message is loud and clear, if the UK is to remain competitive, we need to significantly expand our investment in digital training for the next generation.”
To see all four keynote presentations at Innovisions go to: http://www.thenef.org.uk/innovisions_2015