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From Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0 – II

The three defining characteristics of Industry 5.0: Human centric, Sustainable and Resilient. Image credit: EU

Whilst Industry 4.0 is characterised (and fostered) by technology adoption (IoT, smart robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, connectivity 4G/5G, Digital Twins) the shift towards Industry 5.0 is having as “attractors”

  • human centricity
  • sustainability
  • reliability

These are not “technologies”, although there are a number of technologies supporting them (and investment in technology evolution is needed). These are global objectives that go across economics and social domains. That technology remains crucial is also given by the fact that you cannot jump from Industry 3.0 to Industry 5.0, you need to implement Industry 4.0 to get to the 5.0 (but of course the two can be implemented in parallel!).

Whilst Industry 4.0 was fostered by an “internal” pressure to become more efficient and nimble, to decrease CAPEX by using more flexible production tools (smart robotics) and by increasing (or at least keeping revenues stable against the sliding of prices resulting from the Digital Transformation) aided by technology evolution, Industry 5.0 is fostered by “external” pressures to be a component in the global sustainability effort (including decreasing raw material consumption, decreasing CO2 emission, recycling and reusing), to take care of the workforce looking at evolution in a human centric (not business centric) way and becoming much more resilient (this latter has become crucial after the impact of the pandemic and the war resulting in the energy crises, the chip shortage, the disruption of supply chains).

Industry is now facing an even bigger challenge, having to meet potentially opposite goals without resulting to compromise. Think about decreasing power consumption yet increasing the yield, adopting more automation -including in white collar work- yet preserving jobs, stimulate innovation yet focus on local availability, …

It is clear that industry alone won’t be able to meet these challenges: a political and regulatory framework needs to be created to support cooperation on goals and competition on the market.

This is what the European Commission is pursuing.

A crucial component will be the relation among human (workers – blue and white collars) and machines. These latter will need to evolve from being tools (and alternative to human labour) to becoming partners and this involve increasing their cognitive capabilities.

Several companies will find themselves in a changing landscape and will need to both become more efficient by pursuing their Digital Transformation (industry 4.0) and become more in synch with the external challenges of climate, waste management, resource scarcity, energy price and sources (Industry 5.0).

Human capital will need to be “created” rather than acquired. Again this is a system wide challenge, it cannot be solved -entirely- by a single company but at the same time it won’t be solved without the commitment of many companies and a change in culture about education “what and when”.

What education is (and correspondingly what knowledge is) is shifting. Beyond the basic (needed) culture specific education will have to acknowledge the mediation of machines both in access and “understanding”. Knowing how may become more essential than knowing what.

When education should take place will also be changing, from a school education, once and for all, to a life time, on the job and on the spot education, mediated by advanced interfaces (Augmented and Virtual Reality will become ever more important).

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.