The role of Industry 4.0 in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals

The modern world has ushered in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as 'Industry 4.0,' a new manufacturing system fuelled by technology and the goal of creating a more sustainable world. This phase of industrial transition aims to bridge the gap between the real and the virtual world, as well as to develop smart autonomous systems in businesses and supply chains. Countries such as the United States, Singapore, Sweden, and Japan have already begun to explore potential opportunities. Investments in the domain have risen from $ 10.5 billion in 2011 to $ 103 billion in 2021, with global investments expected to reach $ 200 billion by 2025. Industry 4.0 is guided by technological innovation and has the potential to make a significant contribution to addressing global issues such as poverty and hunger, climate change, depletion of natural and energy resources, and the existing economic and digital divide.

Science and technology can play a vital role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals as the integration of technology in industrial development opens up new avenues and enhances productivity and efficiency. Industry 4.0 is built around four factors: connectivity, automation, artificial intelligence, and real-time data, all of which help to leverage multiple on-site and off-site operations. It encourages new approaches to dealing with change while challenging traditional problem-solving methods. Industry 4.0 acts as an enabler for sustainable development, and in turn achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it offers sustainable industrial value addition across social, economic, and environmental dimensions. It helps in driving innovation across sectors and creates new opportunities for better management of businesses, creation of smart resilient cities, improves work environments, and supports governments in effectively delivering public services by promoting vertical and horizontal integration.

Recognizing the potential that lies within Industry 4.0, India has also leveraged key technologies to mitigate issues and improve quality of life by developing sustainable products and services in various industrial sectors. Such as:

Big Data Analytics: India's internet penetration has risen in recent years, to 658 million users, and is anticipated to reach 900 million by 2025. The data analytics industry showed a 26.5 per cent growth in 2021 and was valued at $ 45.4 billion. The IT sector in India accounts for 43 per cent of the data analytics industry and expects to generate employment of 4.5 lakh people by end of 2022. Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been widely used in the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector in India, such as by the fintech company BharatPe, which uses it to finance Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), has a 96 per cent repayment rate and a goal of disbursing $ 1.86 billion by 2023. Furthermore, data analytics has proven to be essential in the e-commerce sector to streamline warehouse operations, with a 5.9 per cent market share and nearly 1.2 million transactions per day in India.

Cloud Computing: Cloud computing is playing a significant role in enabling Industry 4.0 in India. It remains a pillar of innovation and digital transformation, with a projected value of $ 10.8 billion by 2025. With the benefits of cloud computing in the service sector in mind, the government has launched project 'Meghraj' to accelerate e-service delivery by optimising Information and Communications Technology (ICT) spending. The service has been divided into several models, including Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), with Software as a Service (SaaS) being a major component of the public cloud services market. Furthermore, cloud computing has proven to be very successful in India's BFSI sector, with interfaces such as BHIM and Unified Payments Interface (UPI), where UPI transactions amounted to INR 461 crore in January 2022.

Internet of Things (IoT): The IoT market in India is expected to grow from $ 4.98 billion in 2020 to $ 9.28 billion by 2025. The role of IoT is to collect data using devices such as sensors and RFID tags to provide real-time data about conditions and performance. The agricultural industry is the most visible application of IoT in India. Agriculture's digitization has increased connectivity through the use of GPS in tractors, which optimises routes and shortens harvesting and crop treatment. Precision farming, in conjunction with drones, has been a strategic move in the sector, allowing for tighter monitoring and controlled treatment of crops, resulting in higher productivity.

3D Printing: The market for 3D printing in India is expected to grow from $ 12.6 billion in 2020 to $ 37.2 billion in 2026. Today, 3D printing is being used by various industries in India. In the aerospace industry, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched its first 3D printed satellite, dubbed 'Kalamsat-V2.' The defence industry has also benefited from 3D printing as it reduces production time and increases the scope for exploring new design engineering opportunities through R&D. Similarly, the healthcare industry in India has adopted 3D printing and has gained a lot of momentum, as 3D printers are now used for creating prosthetic body parts, dental implants, and new possibilities such as human organ transplants are being explored.

“Industry 4.0 is not about robots, it’s about humans” – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, WEF Davos Digital Agenda

It is important to note that Industry 4.0 is about more than just growth and machines; it is also about livelihoods and sustainability. The adoption of Industry 4.0 has aided India's achievement of the SDGs. The revolution is assisting in the creation of jobs in a variety of sectors, particularly information technology, thereby promoting SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Industry 4.0-led innovations have contributed to the achievement of SDG 9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure Development by promoting the development of new and clean technologies. Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic, Industry 4.0 has been largely implemented in India through the extension of digitisation across sectors. This has resulted in the transformation of industries such as agriculture, education, and banking, and extended access to all.

Make in India and Production Linked Incentives (PLI) have been the cornerstones of industry 4.0 adoption as they encourage investment, innovation, and skill development to build a sustainable manufacturing infrastructure and incentivize companies across sectors to manufacture in India. Aside from these, the government has placed a strong emphasis on talent development as part of its National Policies of Industry 4.0, which includes the creation of learning content for young minds. The Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) launched the Samarth Udyog Bharat 4.0 initiative to promote technological innovations in the capital goods industry to boost the industry's competitiveness. The development of a 'four guided way CNC lathe' and 'cutting edge robotic laser cladding technology' are two examples of technology acquisition fund scheme successes. Furthermore, the government has focused on increasing the country's knowledge base on disruptive technologies by integrating Centres of Excellence (CoE) to Industry 4.0, such as the NASSCOM CoE, which promotes IoT, AI, and other technologies.

Digitisation has provided the much-needed kick-off to Industry 4.0 in India but there are a lot of opportunities that are still to be explored. There is an urgent need to expand investment further in industry 4.0 at the public as well as private level, as technology adoption needs to be implemented at the core of industries to achieve rapid economic growth in India.

This blog has been co-authored by Bhamini Rathore.