Industry 5.0: humans and the environment at the center of digital transformation

By Sergio Salimbeni on October 1st, 2023

The project is called SME5.0, SME means SME in English, and is a strategic roadmap to the next level of smart, sustainable and people-centered SMEs.

The project contains nine areas of study: analysis of requirements for future work in SMEs, for inclusion and diversity, to empower workers, for the implementation of artificial intelligence, biointelligence, cybersecurity and for environmental sustainability, resilience and analysis of ethics and value requirements for stakeholders. It was also defined that the applicability of the study results and guidelines be ensured through close collaboration with non-academic partners, with the aim of validating the results through demonstrations and case study investigations. Three companies and 13 universities from the following countries are participating: Germany, Australia, Austria, the United States, Slovakia, Italy, Malta, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand and Argentina, through our University, which is why I am currently in Bolzano. In the last ten years, many efforts have been made to transfer I4.0 from research to practice. Great progress has been made to also introduce SMEs to the use of I4.0.

The next great challenge for them will be to implement the dual transformation, in the sense of a Digital Transformation towards smarter production, while addressing and accelerating the sustainability transformation to improve economically, socially and environmentally sustainable processes, factories and value chains. . In this project, we aim to take SMEs to the next level by developing a strategic roadmap to make them not only smart, but also sustainable, resilient and people-centric.

This next level of SMEs will be driven by data and Artificial Intelligence, so they will use the available data to acquire new knowledge and apply it for optimization purposes using Artificial Intelligence safely. Furthermore, great attention is paid to how manufacturing and value chains in SMEs can become circular, green and resilient by considering ethical, human and social values for more socio-centric factories. In this next level of SME 5.0 factories, humans will play a much more important and changing role. SME workplaces will be more inclusive and diverse and they must be empowered to achieve greater well-being and make working in an SME more attractive.