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Industry 5.0

Industry 5.0 recognises the power of industry to achieve societal goals beyond jobs and growth to become a resilient provider of prosperity, by making production respect the boundaries of our planet and placing the wellbeing of the industry worker at the centre of the production process.

Roots in Society

Industry 5.0 evolved from the concept ‘Society 5.0’ presented by Keidanren, Japan’s Business Federation, back in 2016. That being the case, my first question is what were Societies 1–4?

The first two ‘Societies’ correspond to the pre-industrial periods (until the end of the 18th century) and are respectively related to the hunting/gathering and the agricultural economies. Society 3.0 is an industrial society and corresponds more or less to the period of the first, the second and part of the third industrial revolutions. Society 4.0 is characterized by the dominance of ‘information” (Information Age), and we can say that it evolved from a highly digitised version of the third industrial revolution, up until today.

Society 5.0 attempts to balance economic development with the resolution of societal and environmental problems. It is not restricted to the manufacturing sector but addresses larger social challenges based on the integration of physical and virtual spaces. Society 5.0 is a society in which advanced IT technologies, Internet of Things (IoT), robots, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) are actively used in every day life, industry, healthcare and other spheres of activity, not primarily for economic advantage but for the benefit and convenience of each citizen.

Industry 1.0–4.0

Despite what is known above, Industry 5.0 has its roots in the concept of ‘Industry 4.0’, which was first coined in Germany years ealier, in 2011, as a future project and part of the country’s high-tech strategy to be commonly adopted by business, science and decision-makers. It was originally linked to how and to what extent the country had succeeded during the first decade of the 21st century and how it could be more effective in the coming decades in order to keep the number of employees in production largely stable. It was focused not only to better meet the economic but also the special ecological requirements of green production for a carbon-neutral, energy-efficient industry.

Over its ten years of life, Industry 4.0 has focused less on the original principles of social fairness and sustainability, and more on digitalisation and AI-driven technologies for increasing the efficiency and flexibility of production. The concept of Industry 5.0 provides a different focus and highlights the importance of research and innovation to support industry in its long-term service to humanity within planetary boundaries.

In terms of technology, Industry 5.0 wants to come to grips with the promises of advanced digitalisation, big data and artificial intelligence, while emphasising the role these technologies can play to address new, emergent requirements in the industrial, societal and environmental landscape. This means using data and AI to increase production flexibility in times of disruption, and rendering value chains more robust; it means deploying technology that adapts to the worker, rather than the other way around; and, it means using technology for circularity and sustainability.

The key drivers

Rather than taking emergent technology as a starting point and examining its potential for increasing efficiency, a human-centric approach in industry puts core human needs and interests at the heart of the production process. Rather than asking what we can do with new technology, we ask what the technology can do for us. Rather than asking the industry worker to adapt his or her skills to the needs of rapidly evolving technology, we want to use technology to adapt the production process to the needs of the worker, e.g. to guide and train him/her. It also means making sure the use of new technologies does not impinge on workers' fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy, autonomy and human dignity.

For industry to respect planetary boundaries, it needs to be sustainable. It needs to develop circular processes that re-use, re-purpose and recycle natural resources, reduce waste and environmental impact. Sustainability means reducing energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, to avoid depletion and degradation of natural resources, to ensure the needs of today’s generations without jeopardising the needs of future generations. Technologies like AI and additive manufacturing can play a large role here, by optimising resource-efficiency and minimising waste.

Resilience refers to the need to develop a higher degree of robustness in industrial production, arming it better against disruptions and making sure it can provide and support critical infrastructure in times of crisis. Geopolitical shifts and natural crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the fragility of our current approach to globalised production. It should be balanced by developing sufficiently resilient strategic value chains, adaptable production capacity and flexible business processes, especially where value chains serve basic human needs, such as healthcare or security.

Industry 5.0 complements the existing Industry 4.0 paradigm by highlighting research and innovation as drivers for a transition to a sustainable, human-centric and resilient European industry. It moves focus from shareholder to stakeholder value, with benefits for all concerned. Industry 5.0 attempts to capture the value of new technologies, providing prosperity beyond jobs and growth, while respecting planetary boundaries, and placing the wellbeing of the industry worker at the centre of the production process.


Source: Industry 5.0 – Towards a sustainable, human-centric and resilient European industry, European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, 2021.