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Investment in Robots plummets in UK

Originally published 16 October 2002

Research by the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) at the University of Warwick has found UK manufacturing has all but stopped investing robots. Robot sales to UK manufacturers in the latest quarter have almost halved to 110 from 199 in the previous quarter. This contrasts sharply to what is happening on the continent, where sales are booming. BARA, who collect these statistics, believe this is due to a number of factors.

First, UK manufacturing takes a much shorter-term view of investment than many of its continental rivals. This is partly due to the requirement to keep shareholders happy. German industry, for example, has many large family owned businesses that take a longer-term view, whilst UK companies are forced to provide returns year in and year out. Large-scale investment generally has a negative short-term impact but repays many times over in the long term.

When share prices are falling companies tend to lose their nerve over large capital expenditure projects and this certainly seems to be the situation at the moment. Many automation companies have stated that customers are holding back on placing large orders.

In Italy where investment in automation has been very strong, much of it can be attributed to tax incentives designed to increase the uptake of high technology in manufacturing. Perhaps the UK government should consider similar tax incentives.

Dr Ken Young, researcher at the University of Warwick, and head of BARA said:
"It certainly seems ironic that while a record number of people are building robots in their spare time, that fewer people seem to be using them in their businesses. Perhaps if less were spent on company cars that depreciate rapidly and more on robots, which earn money, we could return our industry to world class performance. With robots now costing about the same as a good sales rep’s car it would be interesting to see the financial justification offered for the purchase of the car instead of the robot."

For further details please contact:
Dr Ken Young,
BARA c/o University of Warwick
Tel 024 7657 3742
Mobile: 0777 5534345
Tel: 024 76 523716

Jenny Murray, Assistant Press Officer
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 765 74255
Mobile: 07876 217740
Email: PR116