DIGIT

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Business and Management

Abstract

It is now widely accepted that we are living through a 4th industrial revolution and that innovation driven by digital technologies such as the Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Quantum Computing, 5G mobile networks, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), blockchain cryptography, sensory devices, wearables, and decentralised data flows. etc is fundamentally changing the economy, society and individual lives. The mission of DIGIT is to accelerate the responsible application of digital technology on productivity and employee wellbeing. We will do this specifically in Large Organisations the 'big name firms' in the public and private sectors who employ more than 250 employees.

Attention diverted to start-ups and a highlighting of successes by "unicorns" has obscured the fact that LEOs continue to drive the UK economy, employing 57% UK workforce and sustaining communities throughout the UK. The 2018 Gartner report found 11 out of 15 organisations identified digital transformation as one of their top three organisation priorities for 2018 and the top priority for banking and investment, telecoms and government sectors. Similarly, 71% of UK business leaders admitted that digital transformation is not as widespread as it should be. A survey of 4600 business leaders by Dell found that the UK lags companies from India, Brazil and Thailand in digital transformation. Although traditional consulting remedies have application in the analog world, digital technologies are revolutionising what is possible, and far more creativity is urgently required, DIGIT is designed to meet this need.

As a Centre of Excellence in digital innovation, DIGIT will provide its partners with an opportunity to trial 4th industrial revolution technologies and business models that aim to bring together the four areas of wealth creation that are at the heart of our proposal: business growth, productivity, wellbeing and the environment. We will provide our business partners with these opportunities in two phases. In Phase 1, participating firms who are already exploring '4th tech' can expect to access partner facilities, designed specifically to help expand and explore new dimensions to this testing, including wellbeing, productivity and sustainability in a low-risk environment. In Phase 2, DIGIT partners will be provided with access to a demonstrator, opportunities for testing in-the-wild and a programme of evaluative action research, which aims to ensure that subsequent processes of adoption are effective and responsible.

Planned Impact

DIGIT's vision is to create a world-leading interdisciplinary centre for research into the responsible application of digital technology, on productivity and employee wellbeing through the development not only of the technology but the development of new skills, organisational design and practices, new business models and value chains. Our application will be in Large Established Organisations (LEOs).

LEOs are the backbone of the UK economy, employing more than half of its workforce and sustaining economies and communities throughout the UK. They face extraordinary pressures to redesign their structures and business models, and this along with the slow diffusion and adoption of innovation and technology is a significant blockage to improving UK productivity and overall economic performance. DIGIT combines digital innovation, growth and transformation with productivity enhancement and employee wellbeing to ensure optimal performance and sustainability for the organisation and its people.

DIGIT has a wide variety of impacts on both individuals and the institution. LEOs seek insights, approaches, and support in understanding, prioritizing, and acting on these disruptions, at the same time as meeting sustainability and resource usage commitments. Economic Impact will be achieved through successful co-creation and use by our partner companies of the demonstrator and the application of associated learning in their organisations.
During periods of change employees often experience significant uncertainty and the changing digital workplace can be a very stressful place leading to lower performance and reduced wellbeing all round. There were 600,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression reported in 2017/18 ad 57% of all working days lost to ill health were due to stress and anxiety. By including employee wellbeing as a twin theme to be addressed alongside productivity, we will ensure that new digital and organisational working practices enhance rather than impact wellbeing.

Research outputs will be shared and promulgated through our team's associated existing DE and EPSRC Research Community Networks. For example, G Parr is a Co-Pi on EPSRC Commnet2 (https://www.commnet.ac.uk/); G Parr and R Maull are CI on the EPSRC DE Network- Internet of Food Things which has large food organisations as members:- (https://www.foodchain.ac.uk/); R Maull (PI) and P.Godsiff (network co-ordinator) are members of the EPSRC Network plus, DEAS (Digitally enhanced advanced services) (https://www.deas.ac.uk/). This will benefit academic communities within the Digital Economy and is complementary to the expected publication of research papers and outputs covered in detail in the academic beneficiaries' section. Throughout the funding period, the DIGIT team will work with our partners to identify opportunities to fund additional activities in priority areas (e.g., through KTPs and EPSRC studentships, MSc and PhD programmes), contributing to the sustainability of the programme. For the wider research and practitioner community we will create a cadre of Impact Fellows. There are two types of fellows, those engaged in LEOs on digital application cases, and academics both nationally and internationally engaged in digital transformation research. These individuals will have the opportunity to undertake impact residencies, spending extensive periods of time based in DIGIT research institutions.

Publications

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