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Research Ecosystems
Creating smart ecosystems
Research projects
Paradigms 4.0

Creating smart ecosystems

Paradigms 4.0

Building blocks for a high road digital transformation of the industry

Type project FWO SBO (multidisciplinair onderzoek)
Project partners KU Leuven (CeSO, HIVA, Department of Mechanical Engineering), TNO (NL)
Duration November 05, 2018 - November 02, 2022
Contact person Wouter Van Bockhaven, PhD

Industry 4.0 technologies at industrial companies

Industry 4.0 refers to the change in industrial policies in all EU member states based on the implementation of digitization and cyber‐physical systems. The precise impact of the use of these disruptive technologies on organizations, workplaces, work relations and performance is a much debated issue. The technology seems to present the possibility for two very different routes: a ‘low road’ strategy, which focuses merely on the use of technology to reduce costs and replace labor, leading to less employment, worsening working conditions and more conflictual employment relationships; and a ‘high road’ strategy, in which technology is used not to replace, but to support employees in both physical and mental labor, leading to an increase in job quality, better performance and sustainable employment relationships.

Without Paradigms 4.0, industrial policies might aim at ‘low road’ strategies jeopardizing employment, job quality and possibly long-term performance.

Closing the knowledge gap

Paradigms 4.0 will fill the scientific knowledge gap to ensure that Industry 4.0 technology applications foster societal aims, while at the same time cradle high performance organizations. Antwerp Management School will be involved in the ‘innovation strategy’ part of the project, investigating the necessary conditions for a ‘high-road’ smart specialization. As such, the research will involve identifying the strategic options, the required capabilities and the role the ecosystem can or should play in the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies in industrial firms in Flanders.

The program will run for 4 years. In the first year we will work towards a maturity model for the adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies. Afterwards our focus will shift to the identification of different strategic options as well as skills, resources and organizational capabilities necessary for a successful transformation throughout the different maturity levels. At the end of year four, a conceptual framework on “high road workplaces” will be ready. Validation activities are planned throughout the entire program to ensure the results are valid and valuable for the industry.

Strategy & Innovation

  • Improved organizational design and HR policy in Industry 4.0 companies
  • Development of “skill ecosystems” and “entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems”
  • Effective participation in innovation
  • Regional strategies for strong innovation and improved economic performance
  • Improved statistics concerning the labor market


Paradigms 4.0 endeavors to understand the relationship between technology development, organizational concepts, employment relationships and industrial innovation policy. To this end, the research group will develop a scientific framework, answering critical questions concerning the impact of Industry 4.0 on organizations, workplaces, employment relations, performance and workers. This framework can then be used as a basis to help guide companies in the future towards successful implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies ensuring high performance and the fostering of societal aims.

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Function Professor strategy & innovation ecosystems, researcher expertise center Smart Ecosystems & Networks

A question about this project?