Although industry 4.0 is still a relatively new concept, many experts are already announcing a fifth industrial revolution that will bring about a new paradigm of cooperation and interaction between humans and machines. This is one of the main conclusions of the conference on industry 5.0 organised by the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 22 November.
The fourth industrial revolution was characterized by the integration of smart, connected, and autonomous digital and physical technologies like the internet of things and robotics. This development caused some concerns, for example about the loss of jobs. Industry 5.0 is focused on combining human beings' creativity and craftsmanship with the speed, productivity and consistency of robots. According to Professor Bram Vanderborght, from the Brussels Human Robotic Search Center (BruBotics) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the goal is
to combine the strengths of human and machines, keeping in mind that safety is the primary concern and dangerous tasks should always be performed by robots. This was defined by Francisco Jaime Quesado, specialist in innovation and competition as
coopetition, a mix of competition and cooperation that will be the hallmark of this new era.
In the same vein, Martin Ciupa, Chief Intelligence Officer at Mindmaze, stated that
industry 5.0 might be the last industrial revolution, as it would be hard to find problems that could not be solved by artificial intelligence. As a consequence, human kind would have to find a new role for itself, but, according to Martin Ciupa, it wouldn't necessarily mean that robots would take all the jobs:
It will be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be negative: robots for robotic jobs, humans for human jobs.
Other speakers also mentioned the social and ethical risks of this new industrial revolution, as the loss of jobs, the challenges posed to educational systems and the environmental issues. But the general consensus was that industry 5.0 represents a very good opportunity. Željko Pažin, Executive Director of the European Factories of the Future Research Association, presented some examples of human-centred technologies which combine robotic and human skills and delivered an optimistic message:
Even if I fully agree with all the fears, I still think Europe is and will remain strong and competitive in many sectors.
This view was shared by Marcel Vollmer, Chief Digital Officer at SAP Ariba, who insisted on the role of regulation:
We have to transform our old economy in an intelligent economy, but for that we need a regulation that follows the pace of technological transformation; if we are able to do so, at the end we will have more jobs. Jori Ringman, Deputy Director General of the Confederation of European Industries, pointed out the importance of preserving values in the new industrial developments. He was joined by Ian Cronin, Project Lead at World Economic Forum, who insisted on the role played by governments in the evaluation of the social impact and stated that
Europe is instrumental in giving industry 5.0 a human touch. Finally, Pierre Lucas, Manager at Orgalime, evoked the need of further discussions, as artificial intelligence will be
a major pillar of EU's competitiveness and its ability to face societal challenges.
Lucie Studničná, President of the CCMI, closed the conference by calling for a new social contract with a new distribution of advantages in order to tackle the risk of increased inequalities:
There will be winners and losers, but we have to make sure that we get everyone on board to reduce the negative impact.