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Big Data London (BDL), the UK’s largest exhibition and conference for data leaders, today revealed the first findings from the inaugural UK Fourth Industrial Revolution Report. The independent research, sponsored by Big Data LDN and Hortonworks, surveyed how 250 of the UK’s largest data-driven organisations are coping with pre-Brexit pressure to compete against data-savvy competitors globally.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), driven by data, follows on from others which Britain led, including steam power, computing and the World Wide Web. Today’s results paint a picture of an economy in flux, with leading technologies like Big Data used more for analysis of today’s consumer spending habits and less for designing tomorrow’s new products and services.

Complacency among the UK’s data experts was evidenced in their belief our expertise was 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. There was also cause for optimism with most UK large businesses working to an agreed data strategy and encouraging the upskilling of existing staff who already understand their business’ operational model rather than the outsourcing of vital data analysis activities, as found in previous technology waves.

Key Fourth Industrial Revolution Report findings include:

·         Short-termist ambitions for UK organisations - Four times as many UK organisations (58%) use data to analyse existing customer engagement and loyalty as to develop new products (13%).

·         Somewhat prepared - Almost all UK enterprises have a data strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however the majority of organisations (48%) have only been recently delivering against it for the last 12 months.

·         Skills gap saved by self-sufficiency - When asked how they will obtain the skill sets needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 60% will identify and redeploy staff with transferable skills, and only 2% of UK businesses surveyed will outsource.

·         Strategic technology on the shopping list for UK businesses – Data Leaders indicated Enterprise Information Management (29%), Self-service data preparation (27%) and Cloud (25%) platforms are the technologies needed to deliver value and business growth in the new revolution.


Specifically, on Brexit’s impact on the UK’s role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the findings are mixed:

·         UK PLC will remain competitive globally - Just 10% see their organisation becoming less competitive globally. However, 38% say UK organisations will have less access to data from European partners.

·         Opportunity to boost revenue - 44% believe Brexit will boost innovation in their organisation’s data usage and nearly a third (32%) of UK data leaders believe this country has the ability to create its own world-class legislation.

Alan Mak, Chair of the All-Party group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, said of the report’s findings:

"As Chair of Parliament's all-party group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), I welcome this research that looks at how Britain can use data to drive economic growth. 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. 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."

Commenting on the findings, Big Data LDN founder, Bill Hammond, said: “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. 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."”

“It’s interesting to see how despite having set clear business objectives, the majority of UK organisations are still unaware of how of big data-led solutions and can truly drive the business forward” stated Abhas Ricky, Director, Strategy and Innovation, Hortonworks. “There is a clear gap between data strategies and the investment needed to achieve those objectives. Big data is raising the bar for competitiveness on a global scale, therefore businesses can no longer afford to rely on legacy infrastructures to remain lean and innovative. As counteracting fraud, improving customer loyalty and the efficiency of supply chains becomes increasingly relevant, any data-driven organisation should invest in new technology that is able to tackle the most demanding challenges and future-proof the business.”