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Unlocking standards for the fourth industrial revolution

Consortium publishes Action Plan to unlock the value of standards for innovation

The National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) partners, NPL, BSI and UKAS with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have today published Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an Action Plan to unlock the value of standards for innovation. 

Advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, super-fast intelligent communications networks and autonomous systems are heralding a Fourth Industrial Revolution, with the power to reshape almost every sector in every country. The UK’s challenge is to ensure the confidence in these digital technologies. The development and review of standards is vital in enabling these innovations to thrive. 

This joint Action Plan is intended to enable the NQI’s activities across standards, measurement, and accreditation to support innovation and technological change for the fourth industrial revolution. Six actions have been agreed to secure effective synergies between standards, policy making and strategic research: 

  1. Deploy an agile approach to develop and review standards in priority areas to respond to the challenges of fast-paced technological change. 

  1. Accelerate the digitalisation of standards to foster greater efficiency and flexibility for industries of the future. 

  1. Upscale engagement with stakeholders, in particular innovators, smaller businesses and consumer representatives, to boost their participation in standardisation and draw in their views. 

  1. Strengthen the strategic coordination between government, the NQI partners and UK Research and Innovation on future priorities for standardisation and the wider NQI to support innovation. 

  1. Raise awareness of how standards and the wider NQI can help inform and support the delivery of government policies, in particular to enable innovation and the deployment of emerging technologies. 

  1. Embed consideration of standards in the policy-making process to unlock their value in fostering growth and innovation. 

Download the report here.  

Dr Peter Thompson FREng, CEO, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) said: “The fourth industrial revolution will be driven by digital technology and data, enabling the innovation of new products and services with both economic and social benefits and impacting the way we live and work. However, the journey from innovation to commercialisation isn’t straight forward. At NPL our role is to facilitate this journey by using metrology, the science of measurement, to provide confidence in the data by evaluating uncertainty, providing traceability and enabling reliable decision-making. We are delighted to be part of the National Quality Infrastructure using our expertise to realise the potential of standards for innovation and commercialisation in the UK and working in partnership with fellow internationally recognised institutions to implement the actions identified in the Action Plan. Standards must be developed and reviewed at the same pace as the development of technology to ensure standards support rather than hinder innovation and NPL will develop the frameworks, good practice guides and skills training materials needed for innovators to adopt digitalised standards, in partnership with Government, BSI, UKAS and end users”.  

Lord Callanan, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility said: “Our joint action plan on standards will help the UK take a lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, speeding up adoption of new technologies and maximising the benefits of innovation for society. Voluntary standards play a crucial role in disseminating knowledge and know-how, and this action plan sets out how we will work with businesses and partner organisations to unlock this potential.”

Scott Steedman, Director-General, Standards at BSI said: “We welcome the Action Plan which places standards at the centre of the UK’s efforts to grow an inclusive, prosperous and green economy through technology-driven innovation. Standards are a crucial policy tool by which innovation can flourish and power the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Its publication is timely and vital to the UK’s ambition to build back better and stimulate economic growth, trade and productivity.  

In our role as the UK National Standards Body, we are committed to aiding the delivery of the plan through the agile development of standards designed for emerging and fast-changing markets that need good practice to evolve and grow with them. A recent example is the Energy Smart Appliances programme that enables the uptake of safe, secure and interoperable appliances like electric vehicle chargepoints”. 

Matt Gantley, Chief Executive, United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) said: “UKAS very much welcomes the launch of this Action Plan which is the product of a successful collaboration between Government and our organisations. Standards, measurement, and accredited conformity assessment play a critical role in supporting innovation and as NQI partners, UKAS, BSI; and NPL together with the Office for Product Safety and Standards within Government are an integral part of the innovation ecosystem alongside agile regulation. This Action Plan represents an exciting new chapter of our strategic collaboration. We will continue to work together with Government to deliver on the commitments we have made to unlock the full potential of standards and the wider NQI in responding to the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies now and in the future”. 

22 Jul 2021