Car production line

Kevin McGivern, Kx Systems looks at the role technology can perform in increasing productivity.

Technology is the single greatest enabler of boosting productivity within businesses – yet ONS statistics show that on average, the UK is as much as one day a week less productive than France, Germany and the US. It’s clear that more work needs to be done now to harness new, innovative technologies that will be pivotal in helping organisations disrupt their business models in years to come. But what steps need to be taken to get there, in a bid to claw back that elusive, extra day?

Build a stronger support base for SMEs

There’s no denying that harnessing technology effectively will lead to a massive increase in productivity rates for businesses, by enabling companies to work smarter and therefore more efficiently. But developing the technology that will act as the catalyst for this change needs more support at the grassroots level. SMEs need numerous funding options and more investors providing long-term, patient capital on terms that incentivise and reward growth. Last year, the Business Growth Fund provided £387m in funding to UK SMEs alone, but these companies still need better access to the resources that will allow them to grow into big, sustainable businesses.

Government advocacy

Alongside further funding and an increase in the number of established companies willing to experiment and trial new technologies, we also need greater advocacy from the UK Government for collaboration between established players and entrants. This should open up the all-important access to resources for SMEs. Initiatives like the Government’s Industrial Strategy are a step in the right direction, but a government procurement programme (ideally worth over £250 billion annually), would provide further support for innovative technologies. The only basis on which we can produce an enduring programme of action and arrive at a more innovative economy, is with the full involvement of innovators, investors, job creators, workers and consumers in the UK.

Embrace disruptive technology application

Whilst some industry commentators have been quick to brand new innovations such as blockchain as nothing more than ‘fads’ that produce a lot of ‘hot air’, developments in the areas of AI, robotics, machine learning and blockchain are already achieving tangible outcomes for businesses in terms of productivity. A study from Cognizant found that European businesses have reported a 5 per cent increase in revenues in the last year alone from using new digital technologies, with this number expected to reach 8.4 per cent by 2018. Interestingly, 30 per cent of the businesses surveyed also said that despite the proven benefits, their leadership was still not investing enough.

These developments aren’t confined to the corporate world. Disruptive technologies have benefitted sectors such as pharma and life sciences too. Last summer, the Earlham Institute in Norwich began using Kx technology to study crop growth patterns, developing a completely new approach to analytical processing in bioscience. We’ve also recently partnered with Airbus to develop an innovative approach to processing geospatial data using satellite imagery.

A more productive future

We know that embracing these new technologies will be vital for adding strategic value to UK businesses, meaning that the choices we make today around innovation and investment will determine our ability to deliver a more productive economy, both now and in the future. Whilst Britain is good at spotting new technologies, we are falling short in our ability to turn these discoveries into solutions that last. We need to get the pieces together now to create a functioning, commercially sustainable and well capitalised system that can deliver a more innovative and competitive future for UK businesses.

Kevin McGivern, is the Vice President, Sales, Kx Systems