How can Europe compete in the global race for Industry 4.0, given the financial strength of American and Asian corporations? France is relying on co-operations with other countries.
“An industrial revolution means total change, not only the economy but life in general,” said Prof. Philippe Dessertine, holder of the Chair of Business Management at the University of Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne, at a conference accompanying the Be 4.0 exhibition in Mulhouse. The fourth industrial revolution goes deeper than the previous ones and is far from over: “We are on the second step of a staircase with 10,000 steps,” he continued. Overall, however, he takes a positive view of the topic – Industry 4.0 is for him the answer to challenges for the whole of mankind, such as the population explosion or climate change.
Dessertine became all the clearer with the situation in Europe. For him, the old continent has already missed the first two stages of the fourth industrial revolution, namely digitisation and artificial intelligence. “Europe must become aware of how far behind it is,” he demanded. In addition, the 20 largest companies in the world all come from Asia or America. “Europe's position in the world results from the pioneering achievements of the first and second industrial revolutions,” Dessertine analysed. On the other hand, however, the continent benefits from the fact that Industry 4.0 projects are being tackled everywhere; in Asia and America, this is limited to a few regions.
Corporations tend to invest more than states
Jean Rottner, regional president of the Grand Est region, said that “we must strengthen cross-border co-operation”: “Where France invests 1 billion euros, a company like Alibaba spends 15 billion.” He particularly stressed the need for co-operation. For his region, he is striving for a strong exchange with the German federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland as well as with Switzerland.
This international approach was also reflected at the Be 4.0 trade fair held at the end of November in Mulhouse, France. More than 3,500 visitors came to the second edition of the event according to the organisers, Region Grand Est, Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération and Parc Expo Mulhouse, 18% of them from abroad. The 230 exhibitors included established companies such as Siemens, Schneider Electric, EDF, Engie and Endress+Hauser as well as 50 start-ups. According to the organisers, the exhibition area totaled 10,000 m². The exhibition was accompanied by more than 50 conferences; topics included the digitisation of industry and new economic models, the place of man in the industry, the role of cobots and robots, big data and cybersecurity. “In its second edition, the Be 4.0 exhibition has developed dynamically and doubled its area,” commented Laurent Grain, Director of Parc Expo Mulhouse. For the coming year, he has set himself the goal of turning the fair into a Franco-German Industry 4.0 meeting. The Grand Est region sees itself as the engine of the current 4.0 transformation. Within one year, it has developed and implemented its own strategy, called SRDEII (Schéma Régional de Développement Économique, d'Innovation et d'Internationalisation). This includes a regional plan for the “Industrie du Futur”, which is intended to support companies in modernising themselves.