Industry 4.0 could be a key player in mitigating climate change

Industry emissions account for 30 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. But, production processes are currently undergoing massive shifts due to digitalisation efforts, known as Industry 4.0 or IIOT (“Industrial Internet of Things”).

Journalist Christoph Behrens from Süddeutsche Zeitung met with the authors of our newest publication, Climate Innovation Insights, to discuss this topic on a panel at Productronica, the world’s biggest trade fair for electronics manufacturing.  

A commentary by Maria Loloni, Sustainable Production Systems Expert at EIT Climate-KIC.  

Industry 4.0 and climate change are an unusual pair, but they have obvious things in common: They’re systemic, they’re complex, and they’ll disrupt how we as a society conceive of value creation.  

While climate change will force us to think more and more about the ecological footprint of a product—to make sure that we produce and consume within environmental boundaries—IIOT, and the rise of interconnected AI-based machinery, will drastically change how we value (and interact with) human labour. The global competitive landscape is steadily shifting towards digitalisation of all activities and using big data analytics to raise cost efficiency, quality, and production speed.  

rsz_machinery

But there’s a different potential of IIOT: Its contribution to establishing a circular economy and a greener industry. “Smart manufacturing” allows the gathering of data along the lifecycle of a material, understanding the material input, and considering the end-of-life of a material, instead of putting it to landfill,” says Sira Saccani, Director Sustainable Production Systems at Climate-KIC.  

This can help establish production processes with zero per cent of extracted raw material, net-zero emissions, and 100 per cent recycling. This is necessary to keep products, materials, and components at a high level of a value, and multiple lifecycles—the foundation of a circular economy. She adds: “There will be a need for new product concepts where materials are available for high-quality recycling across different industries. Product designers are at the moment not trained to create this kind of product.”  

As Industry 4.0 technologies are being implemented worldwide, we gradually build a virtual image of all production processes and entire supply chains. If there’s an open access channel for this data, skilled product designers will be able to tap into this information, giving them the possibility to integrate secondary materials from all different industries into their design process. That would be a whole new way of value creation.  

Workplace with notebook on black background

DATA, DATA, DATA for climate innovation

As we have worked in a linear way for over 150 years, there are almost no interconnected value chains in the production industries at the moment—besides sales. It might take decades until IIOT technologies reach their full potential and provide circularity in the production industries.  

But there are visionaries working on this in beacon projects right now. One of them is David Tronchoni, Founder of Edinn, an Industry 4.0 platform based in Spain that delivers real-time information on losses in production processes: Material and energy consumption, quality, and speed issues as well as human failure. “When these losses are addressed, CO2 emissions can be lowered significantly”, says Tronchoni.   

Key tools like this could become the new foundation of a circular production model.  “To know exactly what and how much material is needed for every process enables the exchange of material between local and connected companies. The technology behind this is powerful and at the same time easy,” says Tronchoni.   

rsz_circuit-circuit-board-resistor-computer-163100

A new era for electronics production  

“There are certain industries that will be forced to use IIOT for circularity earlier than others. The electronics industry is one of them. Its need for rare earths and emission-heavy metals will not be manageable by additional extraction soon. Especially in Europe, where we basically almost can’t mine raw materials needed for industrial activities,” says Prof. Dr. Alessandra Bonoli, a circular economy expert from the University of Bologna.  

“The only mining option is the so-called urban mining, meaning, the recycling of electronic equipment in order to extract and recycle it as a secondary raw material,” he adds.   

A highly efficient waste-management system in the electronics sector might become mandatory, to stop practices like shipping electronics waste to third world countries for down-cycling. These environmental issues have to be addressed on a factory level.  

rsz_europe

A chance for Europe

“The circular model is now mandatory. We have to move towards a low-carbon future,” says Bonoli. In that, there’s a big chance for the EU in promoting IIOT for climate innovation and circularity. In my opinion, Europe could showcase that it’s able to have an economy that works in a regenerative way, showing new ways of collaborating, and using open-source to create social value. Therefore, let’s have a mind shift and make this transformation a reality.  

 

Feel inspired? Check out these nine case studies on Industry 4.0-based circularity: Climate Innovation Insights  

 
Location
Related Goal
Goal 8: Reduce industry emissions
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
Five EIT Climate-KIC startups announced as Cleantech Innovate finalists

Five EIT Climate-KIC supported startups are among the 30...

Five EIT Climate-KIC startups announced as Cleantech Innovate finalists
In The News
Drawdown book: Global warming is reversible

Climate protection initiative gives a preview of the German...

Drawdown book: Global warming is reversible
In The News
International effort launched to determine best CO2 capture & utilisation ...

Economic and environmental guidelines will support new industries and...

International effort launched to determine best CO2 capture & utilisation technologies
In Detail
New report cements wood as the future of construction

In a new report, 25 examples of using wood in construction showcase that reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings is not only possible,...

New report cements wood as the future of construction
In The News
Transatlantic bridge for European innovation: EIT Community opens its first Hu...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) opened...

Transatlantic bridge for European innovation: EIT Community opens its first Hub in Silicon Valley
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Beyond Ratings registered as credit rating agency by...

EIT Climate-KIC supported firm Beyond Ratings, a financial services...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Beyond Ratings registered as credit rating agency by European Securities and Markets Authority
In our community
Interview with Nico Wolf, CFO, Endless Energy – Winner of the EIT Climate-...
Interview with Nico Wolf, CFO, Endless Energy – Winner of the EIT Climate-KIC Finance Incubator Competition
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Ombrea raises €1 million to commercialise its smar...

EIT Climate-KIC supported start-up Ombrea, which offers a tool...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Ombrea raises €1 million to commercialise its smart agriculture system
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces partnership with Silicon Valley innovation hub

EIT Climate-KIC has announced its partnership with cleantech innovation...

EIT Climate-KIC announces partnership with Silicon Valley innovation hub
In The News
Eight EIT Climate-KIC innovators in prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe List...

In the last four years, the EIT Community has...

Eight EIT Climate-KIC innovators in prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe List 2019
In The News
Bill Gates lists EIT Climate-KIC’s Climeworks on 2019 Breakthrough Techn...

Bill Gates was invited to be the first guest...

Bill Gates lists EIT Climate-KIC’s Climeworks on 2019 Breakthrough Technologies list
Innovation Spotlight
AI and robotics could revolutionise municipal waste sorting

Ferrovial, a leading infrastructure operators and municipal services company, and EIT Climate-KIC partner, is collaborating with start-up...

AI and robotics could revolutionise municipal waste sorting
In Detail
Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

A new report, “Accelerating the transition to a circular economy: Improving access to finance for circular economy projects,” provides key recommendations to drive increased...

Accelerating the transition to a circular economy
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches ‘Call to Action’

This week, EIT Climate-KIC launched its call for proposals....

EIT Climate-KIC launches ‘Call to Action’
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Ÿnsect raises €110 million, becoming global leade...

Ÿnsect announced yesterday that it has raised €110 million...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Ÿnsect raises €110 million, becoming global leader in alternative protein
Opinion
Policy: The circular designer’s secret weapon
Joe Iles & Simon Widmer Circulate News & The Circular Design Guide
Policy: The circular designer’s secret weapon
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Climetrics announces top ten European equity funds f...

Climetrics, the world’s first and only independent climate rating...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Climetrics announces top ten European equity funds for climate performance
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported WINnERS secures over €1.5 million in funding

WINnERS, an agricultural supply chain de-risking service supported by...

EIT Climate-KIC supported WINnERS secures over €1.5 million in funding
In our community
Interview with Marian-Constantin Vasile, Trainer, EIT Climate-KIC
Interview with Marian-Constantin Vasile, Trainer, EIT Climate-KIC
In our community
Interview with Piotr Magnuszewski, Programme Leader, Centre for Systems Solu...
Travis Hendrix tbd
Interview with Piotr Magnuszewski, Programme Leader, Centre for Systems Solutions
Opinion
How the climate community breeds its own inaction
Dominic Hofstetter EIT Climate-KIC
How the climate community breeds its own inaction
Innovation Spotlight
Not your ordinary reusable bag: Plant trees & earn discounts while you s...

Remember a time when you’d carry your purchases home in a plastic bag? Neither can we. That’s...

Not your ordinary reusable bag: Plant trees & earn discounts while you shop with goodbag
In our community
Interview with Mike Asquith, Project Manager – Integrated Environmental As...
Interview with Mike Asquith, Project Manager – Integrated Environmental Assessment, European Environmental Agency
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches strategy for 2019-2022

EIT Climate-KIC, innovation community established and funded by the...

EIT Climate-KIC launches strategy for 2019-2022
Opinion
A systemic approach to innovation in land use and nature-based solutions
Daniel Zimmer Director Sustainable Land Use at EIT Climate-KIC
A systemic approach to innovation in land use and nature-based solutions
Opinion
How moderation could accelerate climate action
Dominic Hofstetter EIT Climate-KIC
How moderation could accelerate climate action
In The News
Close the circularity gap to avert catastrophic climate change, Davos told tod...

A new report by Circle Economy, supported by EIT...

Close the circularity gap to avert catastrophic climate change, Davos told today
In our community
Interview with Mia Dragovic Matosovic, Scientific Researcher, Institute for ...
Interview with Mia Dragovic Matosovic, Scientific Researcher, Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy
In our community
Interview with Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team
Interview with Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team
In The News
EU group invites feedback on sustainable finance definition

The Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (TEG) set...

EU group invites feedback on sustainable finance definition