[Burning issue] 4th Industrial Revolution

industrial revolution


  • The World Economic Forum (WEF, as announced earlier, chose Hyderabad as the location for its Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), which will focus on healthcare and life sciences.
  • In this context, this edition of the burning issue will talk about C4IR, the 4th industrial revolution and India’s readiness to embrace it.

Objective of setting the ‘Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (C4IR)

  • The C4IR Hyderabad will be an autonomous, non-profit organization and the only such World Economic Forum in India with a thematic focus on healthcare and life sciences.
  • The C4IR Hyderabad will facilitate, advance and accelerate the development and adoption of newer technologies including genomics, personalized medicine and healthcare manufacturing, with a focus on the interplay between life sciences and technology in the region and globally.
  • It will be the 18th center to join WEF’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) network that spans four continents.

What is industrial revolution 4.0?

  • According to the Executive Chairman of WEF, Klaus Schwab, the fourth industrial revolution is a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another”.
  • It is the information-intensive transformation of manufacturing and related industries into smart factories.
  • It involves the integration of some of the key emerging technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Four integral design principles of Industry 4.0

  • Technical assistance: The ability of the system to assist humans in decision-making, problem-solving, and helping humans with difficult or unsafe tasks.
  • Information transparency: Sharing immense amounts of data and information among the components, to instantly adjust and optimize for higher efficiency.
  • Decentralized decisions: The ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomously as possible.
  • Interconnection: The ability of devices and people to connect and communicate with each other through the Internet of things.

The Previous three industrial revolutions

  • 1st industrial revolution: The first Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the last quarter of the 18th century with the mechanization of the textile industry, the harnessing of steam power, and the birth of the modern factory.
  • 2nd industrial revolution: The Second Industrial Revolution, from the last third of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War I, was powered by developments in electricity, transportation, chemicals, steel, and mass production and consumption. Industrialization spread even further – to Japan after the Meiji Restoration and deep into Russia, which was booming at the outset of World War I. During this era, factories could produce countless numbers of identical products quickly and cheaply.
  • 3rd industrial revolution: The third industrial revolution, beginning c. 1970, was digital — and applied electronics and information technology to processes of production. Mass customization and additive manufacturing — the so-called ‘3D printing’ — are its key concepts, and its applications, yet to be imagined fully, are quite mind-boggling.

How different will be the 4th industrial revolution?

There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact.

  • The speed aspect: The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.
  • The scope aspect: it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
  • The system aspect: The 4th revolution will be characterized by the advent of cyber-physical systems which, while being reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the third industrial revolution, represent entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, and breakthrough approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as blockchain.
  • Hence, it can be said that the 4th industrial revolution is conceptualized as an upgrade on the third revolution and is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Benefits of Industrial Revolution 4.0

  • Improve the quality of life: Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.
  • Enhance productivity: Industry 4.0 technologies enable can lead to optimizing resource allocation, reducing downtime and improving production rates, which makes the manufacturing processes more cost-effective and efficient.
  • Cost efficiency: Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.
  • Knowledge Sharing and Collaborative Working: Industry 4.0 technologies allow your production lines, business processes, and departments to communicate regardless of location, time zone, platform, or any other factor. Hence, it will facilitate smoother integration of India into the global supply chain. Faster communication and cheaper production technologies can ensure smoother integration of India into the global supply chain. India’s automotive manufacturing sector is a leading user of IR 4.0 technologies.
  • Employment generation: Though the fear of job loss due to Industry 4.0 is widespread, various research points out that is baseless. The Future of Jobs Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts the loss of 75 million employments by 2022 worldwide and the production of 133 million occupations over a similar period.

Challenges to 4IR

  • Cybersecurity issues may increase: In IR 4.0, People, products and equipment will be increasingly connected to the internet. Although this gives us greater access to data via the cloud, it opens up opportunities for hackers to access networks.
  • Reduce the number of low-skill jobs:  Manufacturing, and industry as a whole, continues to rely on humans to enable production. However, the move to digitally connected systems may unintentionally reduce the need for low-skill labor.
  • Industry and Market Disruption: With the new technologies of 4IR, industries that are not able to move with the change will not be unable to survive what Industry 4.0 brings to market.
  • The rise in social inequalities: With this revolution will give rise to a job market increasingly segregated into low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay segments, which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions. In India, where digital literacy is dismal, a revolution of this sort can lead to a sharp rise in inequalities.

Challenges specific to India

  • Deficiency of Infrastructure & internet Connectivity: Besides digital infrastructure, the country lacks some basic infrastructure such as 24×7 power, high-speed internet (especially in rural areas) and a workforce with the necessary skill set.
  • Quality of data: Due to a lack of established data collection standards and a large informal sector, India is unreliable when it comes to the quality of data collected
  • Limited focus on Research and Development: Though India has emerged as the choice location for cutting-edge Research and Development (R&D) projects for global companies, the overall spending on it remains dismal.

Steps taken by Government

  • SAMARTH Udyog Bharat 4.0: Smart Advanced Manufacturing and Rapid Transformation Hub (SAMARTH) Udyog Bharat 4.0 is an Industry 4.0 initiative of the Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industry & Public Enterprises. It seeks to facilitate and create an ecosystem for the propagation of Industry 4.0 set of technologies in every Indian manufacturing by 2025, be it MNC, large, medium, or small-scale Indian company.
  • Centre of Excellence (CoE) on IT for Industry 4.0: This CoE would act as a knowledge center for entrepreneurs and startups, propagating the concept of IT and its application in IR 4.0.
  • Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution: World Economic Forum has opened its 4th center for Fourth Industrial Revolution in Mumbai. It is the fourth in the world after San Francisco, Tokyo and Beijing. It will work in collaboration with NITI Aayog in India to co-design new policies and protocols for emerging technologies. The initial focus of India will be on Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and drones.
  • National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS):  Launched by the Union government in 2018, it was implemented by the Department of Science &Technology.The Mission addresses the ever-increasing technological requirements of society and takes into account the international trends and road maps of leading countries for the next generation of technologies.
  • National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence: Under the strategy, NITI Aayog has adopted a three-pronged approach – undertaking exploratory proof-of-concept AI projects in various areas, crafting a national strategy for building a vibrant AI ecosystem in India and collaborating with various experts and stakeholders.

What is The Global Lighthouse Network?

  • The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey, launched the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) in 2018 to identify organizations and technologies in the vanguard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • A lighthouse (in this context) is a manufacturing site that has successfully implemented 4IR technologies at scale, with a significant operational impact.
  • Today, 103 lighthouses—such as Tata Steel’s plant in Kalinganagar, India, and select Henkel Laundry & Home Care production sites—have been identified around the world.

Way Forward

  • Go for international collaboration: India needs a collaborative effort. It will have to create a long-term ecosystem that trains and educates professionals. India could collaborate with the US, Germany, and the EU. The central government can consider a joint platform between ministries, state governments and industry bodies to create a mission for making the most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.
  • Promote industry-academia collaboration: There is an urgent need for more industry-academia collaboration and to develop requisite skills in technology. Introduction of a compulsory apprenticeship program to encourage hands-on experience in technology as early as higher secondary level.
  • Increase investments: to fortify quality, prioritize investments in innovation and R&D and invest in life-long learning for employees. He urged the industry to think big and think globally.
  • Focus on improving productivity: To effectively embrace digitalization, the industry has to foster competitive advantage across their value chains, focus on productivity and fill productivity gaps to compete globally.


  • Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity to help everyone, including leaders, policy-makers and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies to create an inclusive, human-centered future.
  • The real opportunity is to look beyond technology and find ways to give the greatest number of people the ability to positively impact their families, organizations and communities

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