The UK needs a co-ordinating body and specialised procurement portal to boost the adoption of digital twins, according to a new report.
IT industry association techUK has published the document, Unlocking Value Across the UK's Digital Twin Ecosystem, which has been written by its digital twins working group.
The report says digital twins have a potentially powerful role in boosting areas of the economy and society, but there is some confusion over what they are and how they can be commissioned, designed and used.
In response, it defines a digital twin as “a relevant, virtual representation of the state and behaviour of something physical or non-physical with a functional output in the real world”. This can be used as an approach to solving problems rather than being a product or service.
The report also sets out a handful of recommendations, including that there should be a cross-cutting, interdisciplinary co-ordinating body to promote their use. It would identify common information requirements and capability gaps, provide guidance on codes of conduct in the use of digital twins, and develop incentives such as tax credits or innovation funding.
This would come with a 10-year public investment of £150-200 million to support innovation, adoption and diffusion, and strong roles for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
A further boost could be provided by an online procurement portal – the cost of which is estimated at up to £1.5 million – that would make digital twin offerings on the market more visible and less complex, and lead to improvements in their quality and affordability.
Other recommendations are for a series of strategic demonstrator projects to show the value and identify barriers to the adoption of digital twins; to identify the skills needed to support their use; and for UKRI to run a demonstrator project on how the concept can support the aim for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Susanne Baker, techUK associate director for climate, environment and sustainability, said: “Digital twins have the potential to support the UK to deliver on Net Zero 2050 objectives, support the reduction of social inequalities and drive R&D led growth.
“However, the lack of consensus around how digital twins can be leveraged and why digital twins can drive better outcomes - for our people, economy, society and planet - means that the full benefits of this technology are yet to be realised.
“This report aims to set out strategic recommendations for industry and government as to how the UK’s digital twin ecosystem can progress and evolve long term, so that we can see and support this technological innovation to its full capacity.”
The use of digital twins has gradually gathered pace in the public sector, with initiatives such as Greenwich Council using one to simulate the impacts of energy saving measures in social housing, and the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership investing in the concept to support smart places initiatives.
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