Skip to content

Digital Automation Technologies and the Future of Work(ers): A Policy Roadmap

Date: 5 December 2023 12:00 - 5 December 2023 18:30

Register by: Monday 4 December 2023


In recent years, the accelerating pace of digital automation and its impact on jobs, skills demand and wage inequality has been unprecedented. As the UK aims to strengthen its global position in these technologies, academic research into future trends has become ever more relevant.

From emerging technologies to functional specialisation in skills and Global Value Chains (GVCs), there are a range of rapid technological and socioeconomic shifts with which policymakers are continuing to get to grips. Alongside knowledge of the impact of past waves of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), robotisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on labour markets and industrial transformation, new research will be invaluable for the critical decisions around investment, education, and skills training to ensure a just and inclusive transition.

The H2020 PILLARS Project is at the forefront of current research into present and future shifts in jobs and skills demand in labour markets driven by changes in technology, trade, and industrial dynamics. Its ongoing findings will be key to policymakers and the wider public in grasping the changes needed for education and training systems to be fit for the workforces of the future.

Why attend?

This workshop, hosted by the University of Sussex and the Digital Catapult is a unique opportunity for key stakeholders in Government, NGOs and the private sector to engage the research team as they pitch the project’s results and discuss their key policy implications.

PILLARS has provided novel evidence and out-of-the-box policy recommendations for:

• Identifying a wide range of emerging digital automation technologies in real-world applications and sectors

• The exposure of the UK economy to these technologies and their adoption by UK firms

• Their impact on jobs and skills in the UK in relation to European labour markets

• Skills matching, education and on-the-job training for workers and employers

The aim of the event is to inform policymakers of the PILLARS Project’s results as well as to discuss policy recommendations relevant to the UK context.

The results of the event will feed into an extended policy brief offering key recommendations for the UK.



12:00-13:00 – Networking lunch

13:00–13:20 – Introduction to PILLARS

  • Summary of the main results with Professor Maria Savona, Professor of Economics of Innovation at SPRU, University of Sussex
  • Synergies between PILLARS’ results and the mission of Digital Catapult with Brian MacAulay, Principal Economist, Digital Catapult

13:20-13:40 – Industry and occupation exposure to emerging digital automation technologies with Dr Tommaso Ciarli, Senior Researcher in economics of innovation at UNU-MERIT, United Nations University, and SPRU, University of Sussex

Tommaso and team will present new dynamic measures of the exposure of industries and occupations to 40 rapidly emerging digital automation technologies. Distinguishing between industries that produce and those that use these technologies, they will show how employment in occupations with different levels of exposure have changed across EU regions. They will also discuss the implications for adoption of these technologies in the UK.

13:40-14:30 – Panel discussion

What does exposure and impact to emerging digital technologies mean for the UK businesses and sectoral structure?

  • moderator: Brian MacAulay, Principal Economist, Digital Catapult
  • Dr Robert Smith, Director of Technology – AI and Data Science, Digital Catapult
  • Grant Fitzner, Chief Economist and Director Macroeconomic Statistics and Analysis, Office for National Statistics
  • Matthew Houlihan, Senior Director, Government and Corporate Affairs, Cisco

14:30-14:50 – Coffee break

14:50-15:10 – The impact of emerging digital automation technologies on employment and skills in regions. What is next? Quantitative and qualitative evidence with Maria Savona, Professor of Economics of Innovation at SPRU, University of Sussex.

Maria and team will present the empirical results of the impact of Emerging digital automation technologies on occupations and tasks in regions

15:10-16:00 – Panel discussion

What is the future of work(ers) in the UK labour markets? How to harness AI opportunities and mitigate challenges?

  • moderator: Maria Savona, Professor of Economics of Innovation at SPRU, University of Sussex
  • Nicola Smith, Head of the Rights, International, Social and Economics, Trades Union Congress
  • Tera Allas CBE, Director of Research and Economics, McKinsey & Company, PILLARS Advisory Board
  • Professor Bart van Ark, Manchester Productivity Institute
  • Professor Jacqueline O’Reilly, Co-Director, Digital Centre for the Future of Work (DIGIT), University of Sussex

16:00-16:20 – Coffee break

16:20-16:40 Digital Skills, all-levels education, apprenticeship schemes and on the job training with Yuchen Mo Guo, research consultant for the European Commission for PILLARS project and doctoral candidate at Ifo Institute (Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich).

16:40–17:30 Panel Discussion

How to harness education policies and training on-the-job for skills upgrading?

  • moderator: Dr Vicki Williams, Senior Policy and Research Manager, Digital Catapult
  • Dr Ashmita Randhawa, Head of Innovation at Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley at Sunderland Software City
  • Debbie Johnson, Head of Innovation Talent and Skills, Innovate UK
  • Professor Rebecca Riley, Director of Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, King’s College London

17:30-17:40 – Closing remarks

17:40-18:40 – Networking drinks