Often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, a new wave of technologies has started to fundamentally alter sectors, markets and value chains; it signals the start of an era of huge change (Deloitte 2015; EU Parliament, 2015; McKinsey 2015; EU Commission 2016; Berger 2014; Marsh, 2015; Rifkin, 2013; OECD, 2017). These new technologies include –not exclusively- biotech, nanotech, neuro-technologies, green and renewables, ICT & mobile tech, cloud technology, big data, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, robotics, sensoring, space technology, and drones. In particular, think-tanks, business leaders, international organisations and policy makers have associated this new wave to the emergence of production models where digitalisation and digital services overlays manufacturing production. They increasingly use the term of Industry 4.0, coined in Germany (Siemens, 2015; GTAI, 2014), to describe such models and related applications. The academic debate on understanding the transformational impact of Industry 4.0 on regional economies and regional policy is still infant.
This special issue addresses the gap and opens a much-needed academic debate with conceptual as well as empirical contributions that help advance the state of the art and ultimately inform policy-makers and practitioners. It adopts a broad definition of Industry 4.0: one that considers the disruptive challenges and the transformational impacts of new technologies on the organisation of production inside and between firms, on the creation of new clusters of products and markets, as well as on the configuration of regional economies, sectors, and value chains.
As nodes in regional and sectoral systems, firms are key actors in deciding on innovation, investments, labour and skills, location of production, organisation of production and so on. Such decisions rest at the intersection between regional and global scales, and increasingly between manufacturing and services. Possible transformations also include solutions that can renew regional industrial specialisations to address societal and environmental challenges (OECD, 2016). However, mismatches, rent-seeking, widening social and economic regional inequalities, and the emergence of global oligopolies can derail strategies that offer firms and regional systems rerouting and upgrading opportunities to tackle disruptive technological challenges. Public policies, business strategies, and collective actions have a decisive role to play to support regional transformations.
Therefore, the special issue focuses on the transformational impact of new technologies on regional economies. The latter will vary depending on the complexity of regional specialisation, on the embedded learning and cognitive structure and processes, and on the nature and dynamics of the regional systems of innovation. Regional governance and policy on the other hand will also determine the prospects for paths renewal and rerouting.
This special issue welcomes conceptual contributions as well as empirical paper that draw on qualitative case studies and on more quantitative empirical studies.
Papers should address the following topics in particular, but not exclusively:
- Facing technological uncertainties and curiosity, what are the main determinants of regional economies’ transformative opportunities?
- How will new technologies re-draw value creation and capture in existing regional specialisations?
- What sectors will be most fundamentally changed by new technologies, what new sectors are emerging, and how will regional economies based on specific sector specialisations be disrupted by new technologies ?
- What role will services play in re-defining value creation in existing sectors? How can regional economies access and adopt the necessary new competences?
- How can a political economy approach to digital innovations and related entrepreneurial strategies help understand risks and costs of regional transformations?
- How will the balance between regional and global value chains change with the adoption of new technologies?
- How and through which processes will regional economies re-combine embedded competences and know-how with incoming new knowledge?
- What learning and adaptive processes can regional economies undertake to benefit from new technologies? What exit strategies might be required to radically change the direction of regions’ economic development paths?
- What roles could regional institutions and universities take on to support regional transformations? What is the role of multi-scalar public policies and multi-actor partnerships, and what will Industry 4.0 mean for regional policy?
- What are the opportunities and constraints offered by new technologies in terms of scaling down production, opening the door to micro-manufacturing and makers’ movement at the local and regional levels?
The Special Issue Editors welcome papers for consideration from academics and researchers with an interest in industrial policy. Expressions of interest (including an abstract of about 400 words) should be addressed to Lisa De Propris at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
The authors of invited contributions will be expected to submit full papers to Regional Studies by 1st May 2020. Submissions will be subject to the journal’s normal peer review process. Details of Regional Studies’ publication process, evaluation criteria and style are available on the Journal’s website.