ETC/WMGE Report 5/2021: Unlocking the potential of Industry 4.0 to reduce the environmental impact of production

13 Jul 2021

Evelien Dils

The aim of this report is to analyse the opportunities of Industry 4.0 to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing. The focus is set on enabling and sustaining circular economy strategies, as the ability of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 as a systemic approach to collect, analyse and transfer data into information, knowledge and wisdom is foundational for their scaling. The report thus presents the key concepts of Industry 4.0 and relates them to circular economy strategies. It investigates potential benefits and illustrates them based on case studies of existing technology applications. However, it also shows that technologies for digital manufacturing require close attention with regard to their own environmental footprint. Based on a status quo analysis of the current relationship between Industry 4.0 and circular economy, enabling conditions and barriers for a digitally facilitated circular economy are then identified. Implications are draw for European Strategies regarding the twin transition of climate change and digitalisation, for the digitally enabled circular economy and for company support.