08 Mar 2021
by Tom Henderson, techUK

Rewind: techUK publishes landmark ‘Unlocking Value Across the UK’s Digital Twin Ecosystem’ report 

Last month, on Thursday 25 February, techUK released a landmark report ‘Unlocking Value Across the UK’s Digital Twin Ecosystem’, alongside the much anticipated publication of the CDBB’s ‘Digital Twin Toolkit’ report. Please see here for the full recording of the session: 

To kick-off, Tom Henderson (techUK) thanked all members of the Digital Twins Working Group (DTWG) for their deep insight and hard work, before running through the different parameters of techUK's report- highlighting the core strategic conclusions and recommendations (2:57) which focus on the need to:

  1. Develop a cross-cutting, interdisciplinary coordinating body to drive forward digital twin adoption and diffusion in the UK 

  1. Demonstrate value from (and explore barriers to) the adoption and diffusion of digital twins via a series of strategic demonstrators 

  1. Trigger the adoption of digital twins across the UK by exploring the development of an online digital twin procurement portal 

  1. Work with industry to identify talent pipeline requirements and anticipate levels of future demand for skills across the UK’s digital twin ecosystem 

  1. Fund a net zero 2050 digital twin demonstrator to establish the UK as a global leader in leveraging digital twins for decarbonisation 

Following the release of the techUK report, Sarah Hayes (Change Stream Lead, National Digital Twin Programme) provided an insightful overview of the NDTP and ran through the significance and findings of the newly released DT Toolkit (9:05), which looks at: 

  • What is a digital twin? 

  • What can a digital twin be used for? 

  • Key case studies 

  • How to build a business case template?

  • How to develop a digital twin roadmap? 

Thanking the Toolkit team for their hard work and deep technical expertise, Sarah signposted the opportunity to continue engaging in the development and application of the DT Toolkit via the Digital Twin Hub – an online resource where you can learn more about emerging digital twin initiatives and share insights across the UK’s digital twin ecosystem. techUK looks forward to continuing work with the CDBB and encourages techUK members of all shapes and sizes to sign up for the DT Hub moving forward! 

Subsequently (23:30), delegates heard from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation – Amanda Solloway MP, who took the time to welcome the publication of the reports and expressed optimism around the role that digital twin technologies can play in enabling the UK to become a world-leading scientific superpower. 

In particular, the Minister discussed the link between digital twins and possibilities to drive prosperity, create new products, services, and jobs, and to transform public services. techUK would like to thank Minister Solloway for taking the time, and welcomes the Government’s recognition that digital twins are critical – not only for our recovery from the pandemic, but also to our long-term growth and productivity.  

Following the Minister’s address, delegates then heard from a brilliant variety of different speakers – who took the time to provide perspectives on the interrelationships between digital twins and net zero 2050 objectives, social housing and inequality, advanced manufacturing, and R&D-led growth. techUK would again like to thank all our brilliant panellists for taking the time to present. 

First up (28:48), Neil Thompson (Director of Digital, Atkins, Head of the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH), Vice-Chair DTWG, techUK), presented a compelling case for the application of digital twins for the purpose of decarbonisation. Here Neil, highlighted how digital twins are already playing a role in enabling clean transformation, and posed the fundamental question of ‘How else?’ to delegates, suggesting that digital twin adoption and diffusion must be an imperative part of the UK’s struggle to deliver on its climate change commitments.  

Next up (39:15), Bola Abisogun OBE (Chairman, DiverseCity Surveyors) followed-up with a powerful presentation on the need to shift the paradigm of digitalisation towards the adoption of digital twins into domains such as social housing. Bola outlined a number of reasons why digital twins could be leveraged to reduce social inequality and build a better future for some of the most vulnerable citizens in the UK, citing the dire need for ‘black boxes’ that has been laid bare by the Grenfell tragedy and enduring patterns of resource inefficiency across the sector. Bola also spoke about the need for empathy in leadership and the moral imperative of using digital twins for positive social transformation and citizen empowerment- themes that run across both reports released on the day and one heavily endorsed by techUK.  

Shifting the focus, (53:35), Rab Scott (Head of Digital, The University of Sheffield, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)), then put forward an inspiring vision for the expanded use of digital twins across the advanced manufacturing sector. In his presentation, Rab highlighted that the traditional ‘V’ model of systems engineering is being questioned and that new systems will require the use of fundamentally different circular processes and solutions. Bringing the talk to a close, Rab suggested that the time to start building your digital twin is now, but that you shouldn’t forget the rest of your enterprise- a theme that runs through techUK’s unlocking value report.  

Finally (1:03:35), Erwin Frank-Schultz (Erwin Frank-Schultz, Chief Technology Officer, IBM, Chair DTWG, techUK) thanked techUK members for their hard work and input in producing the techUK report, and explored the link between digital twins and the need to accelerate R&D-led growth in the UK. Critically, Erwin argued that digital twins can enhance decision-making (reducing cost, risk, and accelerating time to market), that digital twins are important for planning for the lifecycle, and that digital twins can enable organisations to develop agility in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.  

With the presentations coming to a close, we then opened the session up to live Q&A (1:16:30) with our distinguished set of panellists, and welcomed two new guests - James Hetherington, Director of Data Science in Practice, The Alan Turing Institute, and Susanne Baker, Associate Director, Climate, Environment & Sustainability, techUK- for a wide ranging discussion on the future of the UK’s digital twin ecosystem.  

techUK would like to thank again members of the DTWG and the CDBB for their role in the publication and release of both reports. To listen to the full recording of the session and live Q&A, please click here, or reach out to [email protected] (Programme Manager for Smart Infrastructure & Systems [Digital Twins], techUK) for any enquiries! 

Authors

Tom Henderson, techUK