The total UK market for robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) will grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 40 percent between 2020 and 2030. That’s according to a new report from the British government, The Economic Impact of Robotics and Autonomous Systems Across Sectors.

However, it will reach a market value of just £3.5 billion in that timescale, because of the UK’s low installed base of industrial and service robots, compared with other developed nations. So says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has published the document.

A significant proportion of UK growth will be driven by a predicted rise in demand for mobile robots (see recent Transform Industry coverage of this issue).

By 2035, it continues, the total value added to the UK economy from adopting all types of RAS will be positive, but modest: just £6.4 billion. By comparison, McKinsey has forecast that the global economic boost from robotics could be as high as $4.5 trillion – a figure that the report acknowledges. 

BEIS accepts that, historically, the UK has fared poorly in adopting robots compared with other developed economies. The troubling conclusion appears to be that the government sees little prospect of a dramatic change in that situation, despite its obvious role in encouraging one.

While the report forecasts a steep percentage rise in demand for RAS over the next 10 to 15 years, the economic gains will be small, as most growth will occur in just two sectors: warehouse logistics, and food & drink manufacturing.

Other sectors selected for analysis, such as agriculture, construction, energy, and health & social care, will continue to see low growth in demand for robotic systems, despite the many applications and advantages of them that are set out in the 110-page report.

That said, the report only looks at data from seven economic sectors in total, and omits robotics’ potential applications in numerous other ones. 

The conclusion? The UK must do better, and BEIS has a critical role in ensuring that it does. However, it seems to lack the will and vision to play it, even as it observes its own poor progress.

In related news, the IMF had bad news for the government this week: by 2024, it forecasts that the UK economy will be three percent smaller, while many European rivals will bounce back better from the pandemic.