Industry 4.0 and digital transformation: Where to go

EESC opinion: Industry 4.0 and digital transformation: Where to go

Key points:

The EESC appreciates the coherent and ambitious strategic vision in industrial policy being displayed in the Communication and its focus on four key issues: (1) technologies and platforms; (2) standards and reference architectures; (3) geographic cohesion, embodied in a network of regional Innovation Hubs; (4) skills at all levels.


The Council, notably the Competitiveness Council, should, at the initiative of the EC, urgently decide on a EU 4.0 industrial strategy and a Digital Single Market (DSM), replacing the current fragmentation resulting from 28 digital policies.


Cooperation is key. National and regional 4.0 Platforms must bring together all relevant actors. Within a common EU framework, each should develop its own characteristics. Partnerships of all kinds, synergies and clustering, cross-border arrangements and European benchmarking should be promoted.


The Communication is disappointingly concise on the considerable social consequences of digitisation in industry. Net effects are unpredictable. In order to avoid a split society specific attention is needed for those generations and income groups that may be hard hit. For many others, there will be new opportunities.


The EESC expects the Commission to act as a catalyst by effectively implementing the strategic plan. This implies notably effective coordination of competing approaches, avoiding uncertainty and fragmentation of the market. The Digital Single Market is key. An accelerated process of European standardisation will be decisive.


Furthermore the EESC expects an active role of the EC in:

  • raising awareness in all parts of society, in particular to promote acquisition of digital skills;
  • analysing the worldwide picture and providing improved statistical data on services;
  • presenting EU effective coordination as an example to national governments;
  • increasing pressure on investments in infrastructure (telecommunication, broadband);
  • ensuring that the implementation of the GDPR  will not lead to disharmony in the EU market;
  • pushing for transparent public and private financial arrangements;
  • monitoring, benchmarking and evaluating, including CSRs in the annual Semester;
  • promoting 4.0 Platforms and PPPs as well as cooperation among stakeholders, including by bringing them together at EU level;
  • promoting the Digital Innovation Hubs as centres for advanced training of the workforce;
  • deepening EU social dialogue at all levels to discuss labour market consequences as well as adjustments in the field of social and labour law, in particular concerning economic and political measures that should ensure protection for the entire workforce.