In a session at Connected Britain, the group discussed their new partnership as well as what was needed to help expand the Industry 4.0 ecosystem

When it comes to discussions around 5G, the term Industry 4.0 is never far away. Facilitated by next-generation connectivity, the next industrial revolution will make use of a plethora of new technologies, from AI, to automation, to the IoT, to augmented and virtual reality. A McKinsey white paper from 2018 estimated this fundamental change in the way industry operates at around $3.7 trillion by 2025, with ABI research expecting 4.3 billion wireless connections in smart manufacturing by 2030.

In a post-COVID depression, many will be looking to Industry 4.0 as a key driver in the revitalisation of the national economy. 

But, with all its glamour, practical 5G solutions for industry in the real world are still fairly hard to come by. But a new initiative from Ericsson and Digital Catapult aims to change that.

This morning, the pair announced their new Industrial 5G Accelerator programme, bringing together a collaborative ecosystem to help drive 5G industrial adoption in the UK. Three major UK manufacturers – Seagate, Siemens, and Tharsus – have all joined the programme, looking to work with one another to identify smart manufacturing opportunities and co-develop solutions.

“We want to ensure that the best aspects of technology adoption continue post-pandemic and drive new value into our economy,” said Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult. “Collaboration remains fundamental to successfully achieving this, and with the addition of these three leading industrial businesses, the Industrial 5G Accelerator is in prime position to capitalise on the best of UK manufacturing skills and innovation. The road to embedding 5G fully into an industrial environment might be a long one, but this project is a big leap forward in terms of demonstrating the transformative capability of 5G for UK industry.”

All five of these key players came together this afternoon for a session at Connected Britain, discussing real world examples of 5G industrial solutions and what needs to change to bolster adoption.

“We wanted to try and break barriers,” explained Iain Thornhill, Vice President, Service Providers & IoT at Ericsson. “We wanted to try and tease out who can do what within the value chain, from the operator to the systems integrators, to the manufactures.”

This is one of the biggest challenges for Industry 4.0 right now: 5G is beginning to demonstrate that the ecosystem surrounding it must work together if they are to truly harness its benefits for industry, but many of the key players are relatively unknown to one another. 

“Our business is all about being match-fit and ready to use whatever the most appropriate solution to a challenge is, so it’s up to us to know what is good, what is bad, and what might be a potential solution,” explained Dave Swan, CTO of Tharsus Group. “5G fell very clearly into that category.”

“People look at 5G as being the answer to a lot of problems and of course it is,” explained Lester Kelly, Senior Staff Innovation, Automation & Controls Engineer at Seagate. “But you still need the rest of the IoT, the sensors, and all the related devices. 5G is simply the enabler that allows you to bring all of that together.”

In a sense, it is testbed partnerships like this that will not only produce a plethora of real-world solutions for industrial use, but also plant the seeds for long-term partnerships and the creation of a more robust supply chain.

“Having an effective supply chain that is really resilient to disruption is absolutely key,” said Carl German, Advanced Manufacturing Strategic Lead at Siemens Digital Industries. “One of our biggest challenges is getting that holistic supply chain, management, and intelligence. Cross-border connectivity and the associated transparency and control it brings is so important.” 

Industry 4.0 may be just around the corner, but to thrive it will need stakeholders from every level to co-operate and learn from one another in this burgeoning 5G era.


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Ericsson reiterates 5G’s impact on the digital divide in the UK at this year’s Connected Britain