Since the 2008 financial crisis, developed economies have faced weaker productivity dynamics that have affected the industrial sector.
Countries that will not shift to the industry of the future paradigm in time - i.e. adapt their training and their productive systems - will be disadvantaged in this revolution, in both economic (loss of competitiveness) and employment matters (disappearance of production sites). Very few countries are taking active measures to adapt to the industry of the future. What are the good practices in other industrial countries?
Many initiatives have been launched in Germany. The public initiative Plattform Industrie 4.0 was created to help German industry stay on the cutting edge of technology, increase its productivity, create standards and standardize good practices. Several representatives from firms, associations, standards bodies and trade unions work under the leadership of the Federal Government of the Economy and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
This initiative has several activities:
- The platform organizes thematic taskforces to discuss and find practical solutions to issues regarding standardization, networked systems security, legal conditions, research and training.
- Within the platform, initiatives are launched to speed up the standardization of solutions. One of these networks, Labs Network Industry 4.0, should for example facilitate companies’ transition towards Industry 4.0 by allowing SMEs to test new technologies.
- International partnerships are one of the platform’s crucial goals. Partnerships have been signed with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the US Industrial Internet Consortium, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and with France. The goal is to agree on standards and interoperability systems across global value chains.
Similar initiatives can be found in Singapore, which is a renowned hub for high-value manufacturing. The Singaporean answer has been to create the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index as an attempt to address these challenges. Created in partnership with the global testing, inspection, certification and training company TÜV SÜD and validated by an advisory panel of industry and academic experts, the Index has been designed as a comprehensive tool for all companies, regardless of their size or industry.
The Index aims to:
- Learn the industry of the future’s key concept
- Evaluate the current state of their facilities
- Design a comprehensive roadmap
- Deliver and sustain transformation initiatives
The United States
The United States is also a leader in global innovation policies. Manufacturing USA was established in 2014 and gathers industry, academia and federal partners within a network of manufacturing institutes. It aims to increase competitiveness in US industry and to promote R&D infrastructures through public-private partnerships. The network consists of 14 institutes that work both independently and together in a number of advanced technology fields.
One of these institutes is the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA). The AFFOA is led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It gathers 32 universities, 16 industries, 72 manufacturing entities, and 26 startup incubators. Corporate members include various American apparel companies such as shoes firm or medical device manufacturers. The AFFOA is expected to conduct research in the Internet of Things and wearable computing.
Wichita State University Innovation Center is another example which can illustrate global innovation policies in the United States. Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus is an interconnected community of partnership buildings where organizations conduct operations and uses universities’ important resources. Laboratories give students access to real-world applications and to the training needed to join the workforce.
This center is accessible to all American companies, and its funding is entirely private. These funds are mainly used for the purchase of equipment and the center’s construction.
The equipment is at the cutting edge of technology: the site is one of 10 in the country capable of making 3D printing big-box, and is the biggest "virtual reality cellar in the world".
Developed economies are adapting to the 4th industrial revolution. Public authorities have already been launching initiatives with a clear vision and through partnerships between private companies and universities. These initiatives create innovation hubs that enhance the industry’s attractiveness. Institut Montaigne's proposition to create regional acceleration centers is an innovative approach, as are the initiatives previously described.
It is important to launch a real reflection at the European level around the development of the industry of the future. This could result in the inclusion of foreign suppliers to the ecosystem of acceleration centers, under the leadership of the main industrialists of the sector. A twinning mechanism between existing centers in Europe could also be envisaged.
Written by Victor Poirier and Tennessee Petitjean