As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) gathers pace, rapid innovation in a range of digital technologies – from artificial intelligence and robotics to the internet of things – will transform the British economy. This new revolution is only just beginning, but over the next decade the combination of data analytics, machine learning and automation will transform how we work, rest and play.

This revolution will bring both challenges and opportunities for the UK economy. Recent research by PwC suggests that UK GDP could be around 10% higher in 2030 as a result of Artificial Intelligence – the equivalent of an additional £232 billion. However, economists’ estimates of the impact of automation on the jobs market range from 20-45% of roles no longer needing a human to perform them.

History shows us that each new wave of technology has also brought about new jobs in new industries that we could not previously have imagined. However, it is highly unlikely that a transition on this scale will be smooth and seamless. We cannot stop the march of technology, and a Luddite approach to the 4IR would only leave Britain trailing in the global race for success.

Major technological change is often disruptive in the short-term, and can create enormous winners as well as losers, within companies, industries and society. Left unmanaged, rapid technological change can also lead to strains on societal cohesion, which it could be argued we are already seeing in the UK. Whilst black-cab drivers in London rail against Uber today, how will they react to tomorrow’s driverless taxis if they can’t see how they will benefit from the new technology?

But it’s not all bad news.  We have many reasons to be optimistic – we are one of the most digitally engaged and digitally literate societies in the world, many of the technologies are being developed and trialed here in the UK and our open, fair pro-competitive markets are attracting tech businesses from around the world.  There is a clear opportunity for Britain to emerge as successfully from the Fourth Industrial Revolution as we did 150 years ago from the First.

Harnessing this technological change and emerging as a world-leader in the 4IR won’t happen by accident. Policy makers, politicians and leaders across society must act, and act quickly to make sure that we remain open to the benefits of new technology and that we think carefully about the safety nets required in the digital world, to ensure that digital society is civilised and inclusive, and most of all to ensure that British workers have the skills to take advantage of the changes this revolution is going to bring.

So what do we need to do?

We must take education reform at all stages of life more seriously, so that children develop the right skills for the future, so that the working-age population is encouraged to continuously up-skill throughout their working lives, and so that adults affected by automation are given opportunities to re-train and go back to work.

This is not just about coding for kids. It’s about preparing everyone, whatever their age, for a more digital, more automated world, where human jobs will likely all involve a degree of familiarity with technology, but which will also need emotional intelligence, and the creative and social skills that are harder to automate and will be most valued by employers.

As a society, we must increase our investment in scientific research and product development, and take steps to address the funding gap experienced by SMEs trying to scale from start-up to world-leading tech firm. Too often British discoveries and innovations are simply bought-up foreign companies, with the profits heading overseas. We must also continue to invest more in R&D if we are to remain competitive in a tech-driven global economy.

This revolution will also raise important questions about our approach to social, ethical and governance issues. For example, striking the right balance between evolving conceptions of privacy, and the benefits of a twenty-first century economy that is driven by AI and reliant on access to data about the intimate details of our lives, will generate moral and political debates. We must engage with these questions now, before the technology becomes ubiquitous.

To ensure that the benefits of a socially liberal market economy are sustained in the digital world, we must be clear about how we protect citizens’ rights in the digital space, what responsibilities we expect the companies operating in this space to uphold, and how we regulate the machines, their managers, and businesses.

This revolution also has major political implications for those of us on the right of centre. If we do not take a pro-active approach to engaging with these issues, and come up with sensible pro-innovation and pro-business conservative policies to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 4IR, then we will cede that political ground to our opponents, many of whom don’t believe in the benefits of an open market economy at all.

Britain is ideally placed to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we should seize the opportunity to do so.

Alan Mak MP is Member of Parliament for Havant and Founder & Chairman of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Dido Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe is a Conservative Peer and CEO TalkTalk 2010-2017