When asked if they understood what Industry 4.0 is, 37% of UK manufacturing and engineering professionals said ‘no’, while a further 19% were ‘unsure’.

Even among those that answered positively, just 23% were certain that they had a handle on the concept, with a further 22% ‘positive but not sure’.

However, the survey did reveal that UK manufacturers and engineering businesses are investing in the technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, even without high levels of confidence in their understanding.

Looking at the past 12 months, the Subcon research found that 46% have invested in simulation and CAD modelling technologies; 36% have invested in automation and robotics; 28% have invested in 3D printing; and 23% have invested in cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.

Looking ahead to the next year, automation and robotics leads the charge with 34% of respondents planning investment. Meanwhile, 27% plan on investing in simulation and modelling in the next year and 24% plan on investing in 3D printing.

Explains Subcon event director Gordon Kirk: “Looking at these figures, it is clear that UK engineering and manufacturing businesses understand the benefits of new technology, even if they don’t quite get the buzzwords. This investment is being driven by the competitive issues of new product development and improving design and production processes.

“The question that follows is whether or not these investments are delivering everything they could do. The educational programme at Subcon will help these businesses put their investment in context. This year we have a 36-session conference programme based over two theatres and Industry 4.0 and the development of digital manufacturing technologies forms a key part of the subject matter. We anticipate a lot of conversations around these technologies as businesses need to find out how to put their investments to work in creating competitive advantage.”