Industry 4.0 - Implications for an EU industrial policy
Technological change is driving the dramatic transformation of advanced economies. Boosted by digital innovation, “Fordist” production processes are being replaced by a more flexible work organisation. Traditional enterprises are confronted with making radical changes in their business models, in response to demands for new products and services. This upheaval, the so-called “4th industrial revolution” is shaping many aspects of the EU, from the qualifications of its workforce, through its innovation ecosystems, to its educational systems. At a policy workshop on Industry 4.0 held at CEPS on January 25th, policymakers, union representatives, academics and business experts attempted to unpack this “production organisation revolution” to understand its implications for Europe. How can this new manufacturing model contribute to economic development, and what policies are needed to enable it to develop and anchor manufacturing activities in the relatively high-cost economies of the EU?
From an innovation policy perspective, the EU is a competitive player at the global level, but it must attend carefully to maintaining a constant alignment with the political agenda to ensure the inclusion of the thousands of EU small and medium enterprises in the digital transformation. From a labour market perspective, new skills are emerging and some jobs will be destroyed by the wave of technological change; therefore cooperation among stakeholders is crucial, both to avoid the loss of talent and to ensure safe guarantees for those whose jobs are at risk. Finally, a coherent industrial policy at the EU level could enable rural and urban digital convergence and foster continued participation of SMEs in the economy.