By Erich Clementi
In the technology world, the search is constantly on for the next big thing. People are looking to the future – trying to predict needs and trends. Start-ups strive to become the next global disruptor.
There’s a technology revolution being talked about in Europe and this one is focused largely on turning the heritage of the past into a game-changer for the future. Europe’s manufacturing sector has always been the envy of the world in delivering high quality products. Despite weathering a generation of turmoil, premium manufacturing in Europe remains a significant asset – that the three best selling luxury car brands in the world are designed and manufactured in Europe exemplifies this.
Europe is looking to Industry 4.0 – or Digital Transformation of Industry –as the opportunity to lead the world in a new kind of tech transformation. With over 20 national initiatives underway, governments and industry across Europe are taking action to move manufacturing into an era a long way from the grimy factory floors of the past.
Using analytics, mobile, cloud, security and social technologies, IBM is supporting European manufacturers in their transformation towards Industry 4.0. We work with manufacturing pioneers such as Bosch, Daimler and ThyssenKrupp, as well as collaborating on research projects in the European Union such as the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
At a recent business leaders’ conference in Brussels in which I participated, Industry 4.0 was a core theme of discussions between business and EU politicians. European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger has since said “the fourth industrial revolution… will change all our industries, will change our economy and will change our lives”.
While I often hear the rhetoric that Europe does not compete with the US on tech innovation, I am convinced that Industry 4.0 is Europe’s for the taking. Europe needs to play to its strengths – it has the skills and the experience and must capitalize on that.
The benefits are clear: European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, sees Industry 4.0 as having “the potential for increasing flexibility, efficiency, productivity, competitiveness – all helping to create jobs.” As industry we can play our part in innovating and investing, but to do that we need the support of the EU policy makers in Brussels and national governments.
To succeed, the European Union needs a coordinated and harmonized European approach. The publication of the EU Digital Single Market Communication by the European Commission on May 6 will be an important first step. We also strongly welcome the announcement by the European Commission of the launch of a roundtable with high-level industry representatives in June to explore a European platform in digital manufacturing. This is a good way to develop “smart regulation for smart industry” as said by Commissioner Oettinger.
In addition, with data and data flows being the foundation of Smarter Industry, we will need a clear legal framework for processing data. The current proposed Data
Protection law unfortunately does not provide this — a rethink is essential.
Finally, we need to acknowledge the need for harmonized technical standards so that services, software and hardware are interoperable across the board.
Industry 4.0 is a fantastic opportunity for Europe. I am optimistic that Europe will grab it and run with it. IBM will be running alongside – a partner in the next digital transformation.