Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Project - Discourses on European Union I4.0 Innovation (DEUI4I)

DEUI4I is a Jean Monnet Research Project awarded to the university of South Australia under the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The project is lead by Hawke EU Centre Director, Professor Anthony Elliott, and his team.

Project Summary

This Jean Monnet Project, Discourses on European Union I4.0 Innovation (DEUI4I), promotes a broad understanding of the evolution of EU Industry Policy and its role in the integration of the EU. The project asks what Australia and other countries in the Asia Pacific region can learn from European innovation by investigating the EU’s policy and strategic approach to facilitating and managing the transition to I4.0 across regions and among SMEs and Midcaps as well as large corporations.

DEUI4I is a “spread content” project which aims to:

(1)   Perform observatory and curatorial functions in bringing together research on the EU’s initiatives on Industry 4.0 (I4.0) innovation and its policy implications in order to prepare future political leaders, opinion leaders and policy makers on the digital disruption of enterprises and employment, as well as the redefinition of digital skills for work and lifestyle change. This will involve international collaborative research and tertiary education on European manufacturing innovation and advanced digital production technologies, particularly in relation to their potential to enhance EU integration processes and multilateral governance.

(2)   Analyse the impacts of EU and third-country I4.0 policies in terms of the efficiency, equitability and sustainability with which they are managing shifts away from older forms of industrial organization.

(3)   Promote engagement with EU policy processes around I4.0 on the part of senior policy makers, business and civil society leaders, academics and other key stakeholders in focused discussion of key issues under negotiation on EU I4.0 innovation and advanced digital transformation strategies.

(4)   Promote EU studies through facilitating early career researcher engagement with and capability in relation to the analysis of EU processes concerning digital transformations and innovation, and develop resources that will assist with sustaining research and teaching in this field, as well as EU studies more generally, beyond the life of the project.

Robot Thinking

Background and rationale

Originally referring to the German governments ‘4th industrial revolution’ strategy, the term I4.0 is now widely used to refer to the emergence of ‘advanced’ or ‘smart’ manufacturing systems (including the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’, ‘Intelligent Factory Cluster’, ‘L’Industrie du Futur’), along with the actual and prospective transformative impacts these are having on the organisation of production and consumption, work and employment, education, lifestyles and social structures. These systems effectively entail the integration of physical and digital technologies (the Internet of Things, AI, robotics, sensor technologies, nanotechnologies, computer simulation, blockchain, big data, 3D printing) within machine networks that are in many respects self-organising and self-monitoring – and hence highly flexible and responsive to consumer demand and external/internal disruptions. More, these new ‘intelligent factories’ are designed to interface with other smart infrastructures, as well as business and social networks both locally and globally.

The transition to I4.0 is the most profound modernization of economic production and exchange since the industrial revolution. It will impact entire populations and economies, from workers and their families to small and large enterprises, and sovereign governments, with significant implications for social cohesion. There is thus an imperative need to examine current and potential policies used to manage the transition to I4.0, identify new questions that touch upon core issues which affect organisational forms, work and ways of life in a transformed society, and to develop and promote world’s best practice strategies to ensure this transition is not only economically productive, but also socially equitable and environmentally sustainable.

This need has been recognized by the EU, which has been at the forefront of the development and implementation of I4.0. I4.0 was central to the Digitising European Industry (DEI) initiative, laid out in a 2016 EC Communication to the European Parliament (COM(2016) I80 final). This is the first dedicated Industry initiative under the priority Digital Single Market Strategy, overseen by DG CONNECT. The intention is to harness the potentials of new manufacturing models driven by a range of digital technology innovations in order to underpin the current revival and re-shoring of European manufacturing and maintain Europe’s position both as a major supplier of advanced production technologies, with positive flow on effects for EU employment growth and integration. According to estimates cited by the EC Communication, digitisation of services and products would generate an additional €110 billion of revenue per annum for European industry over the following 5 years, with nearly 1/3 of Europe’s overall growth in industrial output being credited to the uptake of digital technologies. Beyond this digitisation is expected to lead to qualitative improvements in the design of work processes and, accordingly, working lives.

The principle tools for the digital transformation of European industry are the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), established by DG CONNECT in collaboration with the Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) to serve as ‘one-stop-shops’ to accelerate digital adoption, especially for SMEs or midcaps, and in regions and economic sectors, where uptake is slow.  DIHs are both policy outcomes of and active participants in ongoing S3 entrepreneurial discovery processes (EDP), performing operations ranging from technology awareness creation, mentoring (eg I4MS projects), visioning and strategy development, through to accessing investment funds and technologies. The range of activities tasked to DIHs is, however, constantly expanding, including current moves to network these better to offset fragmentation and create EU added value, as well as facilitate knowledge transfers from higher to lower ends of the technology adoption curve (Roundtable on Digitising European Industry: WG 1 – Digital Innovation Hubs, 2017). These industry digitisation processes are very new developments, and knowledge of their diverse entailments and enabling conditions across regions (especially EU13), sectors and types of enterprise is still far from complete (see DG GROW ‘Digital transformation Scorecard 2017’). As such the policy frameworks and instruments associated with the DEI are in a state of constant evolution.

In addition to being a pressing subject for EU policy, the transition to I4.0 will also heavily influence the EU’s relationship to 3rd countries such as Australia. Industry policy forms a key component of the EU-Australia Framework Agreement signed on August 7, 2017, most notably in the context of a prospective high quality and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the EU. As global leaders in the transition to I4.0, European corporations are playing a prominent role in Australia’s, and especially South Australia’s changing industrial landscape, evident in recent large scale investments and collaborations by, among others, the French based Navel Group.

In this regard the unique EU processes of policy innovation (including DIHs, S3 and EDP), on their own and as components of broader EU Cohesion initiatives, are of great interest and importance to Australian academics across a range of disciplines, in both teaching and research capacities. Additionally, Australian and South Australian policy makers, business and civil society stakeholders can benefit greatly from the facilitation of dialogues with their EU counterparts who are further down the path in the implementation of I4.0 policy innovations.

Through observatory and curatorial functions DEUI4I addresses the need to gather, collate and critically analyse information pertaining to ongoing processes of EU policy innovation aimed at managing transitions to I4.0 – including identifying key issues and questions with respect of productivity, equity, sustainability and cohesion. Through ‘spread content’ activities and deliverables (outlined below) DEUI4I will make these materials and analyses widely available to key stakeholders in policy making, business and civil society, and wider publics, as well as academics engaged in the study of the EU and its processes, in both research and teaching capacities and across a diverse range of academic and professional fields (business and commerce, law, policy analysis, organizational studies, labour studies) in addition to European Studies.

Activities, outputs and outcomes

The DEUI4I program of activities and outputs is designed to both respond to the need to observe, gather and analyse a broad base of information on EU I4.0 Policy innovations, organize and disseminate these materials and analyses for a diverse array of target audiences, as well as to develop this material for EU studies purposes, including promoting the mainstreaming of EU content across university disciplines. Core elements of the program are:

Two European workshops, in Munich and Helsinki, each with representatives from business (SMEs, Midcaps and large corporates), civil servants and policy makers – including DIHs - organized civil society, as well as senior and early career academics.

  •  “Industry 4.0: Current Developments, Issues and Concerns”, Multidisciplinary Workshop #1 (Munich)

Focusing predominantly but not exclusively on comparisons between the German and Polish cases (along with regional and sectoral differences and the specific challenges confronting SMEs, Midcaps and large corporates), the Munich workshop is oriented towards establishing the current state of development in EU I4.0 policy innovation, including outstanding issues and concerns.

  • “Future Directions in Industry 4.0: New Organisations, New Work and New Lives?”, Multidisciplinary Workshop #2 (Helsinki)

The Helsinki workshop is oriented towards future directions, including new business models, cultures of collaboration, new jobs, new skill requirements, social rights and the rethinking of education.

End-user (Policy, stakeholder and educator) briefings in Australia for a wide range of target audiences – including the EU Delegation to Australia, policy makers, media, business, civil society and academics in EU studies as well as researching and/or teaching in fields relevant to EU processes of policy innovation.


Co-funded by the Erasmus+Programme of the EU