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Project: Up-Skill: Up-Skilling for Industry 5.0 Roll-Out

The Up-Skill project addresses the workforce implications of industry 5.0, with a particular focus on the relationship between automation choices and maintenance of skilled work.

It explores the strategic space in production where automation adds value to skilled and artisanal work and where over-automation risks undermining the value of what is produced.

Video still of a human hand shaking with a robot hand Watch the Up-Skill project video

A pan-European, multi-partner project

Up-Skill is funded by the European Union and UK Research and Innovation and involves 12 university and private sector partners across five countries.

Visit the main Up-Skill website

Businesses are already exploring how they can build business benefit from newly added capabilities such as big data, access to real time process data, the Internet of Things, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, amongst others. The next step will be integrating those technologies with human capabilities.

The focus of the Up-Skill project is to develop a better understanding of how businesses, particularly in industrial and manufacturing environments, can lever value from human and machine integration.

Up-Skill aims to change the mind-set from technology implementation being a substitution of skilled human work to one of human-machine inter-augmentation; extracting value from human-machine interaction to the benefit of both industry and workers and supporting the preservation of cultural heritage and craftsmanship that might otherwise be lost.

The project will identify how the potential for automation and human input is being played out in a range of industrial, competitive and supply chain settings by creating detailed comparative case studies.

Ethnographic research will be used to identify the ways in which job roles and content are changing as a consequence of the introduction of Industry 4.0 and 5G technology, and the shifting managerial capabilities that are needed to ensure the maintenance of added value in these spaces.

The ethnographic approach will enable the creation of a unique and detailed understanding of the ways in which skills and automation interact and are managed in each of the case studies. Precise ethnographic methodological design will be implemented to build a detailed understanding of the products made, the technologies used to produce them, and the specific human skills deployed to produce them.

The approach will also take specific account of the firm strategy and managerial competencies that are delivering business sustainability and growth.

The ethnographic design will highlight:

  1. The specific nature of the production technologies in use and the products being produced.
  2. The specifics of the supporting infrastructure and inputs relating to production as it is presently enacted.
  3. The skills required at all points of the production process and how they are distributed and combined across different roles. This includes technology based as well as social skills such as work planning, innovation, problem solving.
  4. The managerial competencies that are needed to bring both the material and skills elements together.

Up-Skill will have wide-reaching impacts that directly affects the evolution of Industry 5.0 and its implications for future work, and in turn European and worldwide industries and policy.

The project will enable a research-informed approach to the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles within the manufacturing industry, tailored to particular companies and local contexts.

Objective #1: Identify the nature of the different business, industrial and market contexts in which skilled workers are likely to continue to add and be valued.

Automation does not simply, by virtue of its inherent nature, ‘threaten’ jobs. Nor do jobs carry inherent irreducible characteristics that render them automatable.

Different attempts at classifying ‘at risk’ occupations have, unsurprisingly, come to wildly different conclusions.

Up-Skill's research will focus on the strategic, social, economic and business contexts in which it does or does not make business sense to automate skilled, artisanal and craft roles.

Objective #2: Identify how skilled and creative workers act to ensure their continued place in the value chain.

Workers are not passive recipients of technology change; they also react to it. The history of technology change is replete with job roles that have proven unexpectedly resistant to elimination by automating technology.

Recent experiences of digital technology and AI roll-outs make it clear that new human roles constantly emerge to augment technology that rarely works quite as well anticipated.

Objective #3: Identify and detail good practices in organisations that continue to mobilise human skill, ingenuity and creativity as a source of value and competitive advantage.

We lack understanding of precisely what managers and organisations do to better lever benefits from interacting human and technology resource and the importance of distributed decision making for taking best advantage of digital technology.

Objective #4: Examine the specific organisational and managerial competencies needed in contexts where skilled and creative roles meet autonomous, semi-autonomous and intelligent systems.

Before the introduction of automation systems in a skilled crafts environment, both the organisation and the managers require a certain level of skill to both communicate and implement the new approach.

Therefore, there is a need to carefully audit all the requisites at organisational and managerial level for the specific level of automation that will be implemented.

Objective #5: Develop pathways for integration of Industry 5.0 and craft skills for different case studies.

This will provide the specific guidelines that can be used in the introduction of Industry 5.0 to the European manufacturing sector.

Objective #6: Test the developed pathways in related companies.

This will allow us to verify our claims and, potentially, quantify the expected benefits for a better value proposition and establish a willingness to pay for the pathways.

Objective #7: Develop and carry out proper dissemination, communication and exploitation strategies to maximize the beneficial impacts of the project outcomes, ensuring a successful scaling-up and market uptake to boost European industry competitiveness.

This will enable the Up-Skill project's ideas to get to as many European companies as possible.

It is relevant to keep as many of the skilled Europeans working as possible for the improvement of their lives, in accordance with SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Objective #8: Design of management training course content and course modules for Industry 5.0 introduction for management and workers.

The successful future of Industry 5.0 relies on the training of both workers and management to ensure that the benefits are well extracted.

This is aimed at ensuring there is a place for skilled crafts within manufacturing whilst maintaining production competences such as high throughput, quality and product consistency.