As the serious business of negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU gets underway, it’s clear that the details of the trade arrangements and the other practicalities of how the UK will work with Europe after Brexit are unlikely to be available anytime soon.
So let’s stop worrying about what they will be and instead focus our attention on identifying opportunities to thrive in this uncertain climate. One of the more promising opportunities is in the deployment of innovative technologies to spur business growth and efficiencies. Here are four ways they can help the UK seize the moment:
Using digital IP to disrupt value chains – Tariffs accrue to goods shipped across borders. The challenge is to minimise tariffs that are unclear or onerous. Value chains across many industries will need to be re-designed to ensure that the value added at each step is identified. By keeping the value in the digital domain and electronically transmitting that value electronically to a location within the EU where the physical manifestation is created, tariffs can be minimised and the value accruing to UK companies enhanced. In industries where this process is already happening, such as software development or financial services, it can be further optimised. Other industries, such as manufacturing, should focus on the design capability with the physical developments only being those items that add the most value.
IoT to aid customs clearance – A typical approach to customs clearance is to hold goods in bond at the port of entry, assess those goods for tariffs and then clear them for onward shipping after the tariffs have been paid. In a post-Brexit world, this process can be fast-tracked by moving the borders to the point of origin. By using the Internet of Things (IoT) and other sensor technologies, we can undertake customs clearance and duty calculations before products leave their home port, or while they are in transit.
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AI and robotics to automate manual labour – But what of the workers? There’s a real chance new immigration rules will lead to a shortage of workers. Technology can supplement many of these workers so that, as the borders tighten, we can still enjoy the goods and services we like. Places where AI and robotics can have the most impact include in agriculture (monitoring plant and weed growth with drones, automating more of the farming process and developing data-rich models that maximise outputs) and in social care (monitoring and supporting vulnerable people.) Note that on the latter, this doesn’t replace the need for human contact but it will make such important and increasingly scarce contact more valuable.
New product standards for emerging technologies – EU expectations are that they will continue to control many markets through the enforcement of EU product standards. Emerging technologies in many markets are yet to be standardised. The alternative is again to seize the initiative, perfect those standards in the UK with the intent to enhance their appeal to a global market and thus reduce the leverage of the EU standards bodies.
So, technology brings much opportunity for the UK to thrive in an uncertain climate, from automating manual labour with AI, to developing new product standards for emerging technologies. In my opinion, we should take the initiative, embrace the disruption and innovate with technology to make Brexit a success!