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Focus on Industry: notes on Industry 5.0

  • Venice
  • 7 October 2023

        The seminar focused on three dimensions where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seen as having a significant impact on industry.

        The first of these was regulation. An element that emerged very clearly was the impossibility of treating the matter exclusively at local level and the concomitant need for a broad-based international level regulatory framework. Moreover, such international regulation must take into account the impact of legislation on innovation, but also on different ethical systems.

        The second dimension discussed was work, with particular attention to processes. AI has changed both work processes and skills. A considerable portion of the debate was thus dedicated to what Italians call “smart” working, a concept that is more complex than the remote working tested during the pandemic. This phenomenon has led to the redefinition of performance, requalification of workers and rewriting of work contracts. The latter now include mechanisms by which to safeguard creative productivity, leaving more sequential and repetitive tasks to data and AI applications. Companies are already working successfully on this transformation, applying these mechanisms to both production and product quality.

        The second dimension analyzed was the relationship between AI and sustainability. One common opinion emerged with regard to sustainability: it has come to dominate the most advanced businesses and represents a crucial competitiveness factor. In short, either sustainability (environmental and social) becomes part of how a firm does business, becoming a strategic productive factor even on international markets, or it remains a mere marketing and communication ploy destined not to yield significant progress. Sustainability is becoming a firm’s most fragile component at a time when public opinion is beginning to react against the costs of the so-called “green transition”. Any analysis must begin with costs and benefits; if sustainability comes to be viewed as a cost, all the efforts already spent on raising awareness of Italian industry’s leadership in Europe in this area – starting with the circular economy – will have been in vain.   

        The third dimension examined was training, an area in which lifelong learning continues to be the key point of reference. While this is the task of universities and school systems, industry also needs to use its capacity for dialogue with universities and with the ITS foundations that have become a part of the long-term training system.

        To be sure, the transition currently under way does have costs that companies are going to have to absorb. It is therefore essential to understand what the future holds for skills that are no longer needed – due to automation – and that cannot be converted. From this standpoint, the social welfare system needs to be redesigned and can no longer be based predominantly on continued or even expanded unemployment benefits. 

        In conclusion, artificial intelligence is changing products and production while at the same time modifying distribution and approaches to training. The challenge of Industry 5.0, with a view to designing a regulatory framework that is favorable to innovation, will be to continue to invest in digital skills and in farsighted industrial policies keyed to competitive factors.

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