31. 5. 201610:45

Speech by DPM Pavel Bělobrádek - Interaction QFD Methodology and 4th Industrial Revolution (Conference Skoda Auto)

I am pleased to be able to say a few words here.

It is a fact that today’s thinking leads to success today, but success tomorrow is led by the thinking of tomorrow. When we talk about Industry 4.0, we generally have in mind the application of scientific discoveries and inventions which already exist. This is logical and correct. But a specific problem of the Czech Republic is that we lack broader collaboration between science and industry, that we are not good at taking new ideas and knowledge forward as new patents, technologies and globally successful products. I want to change that. And I will come on to that in due course.

But first I want to say that if Industry 4.0 is to work well, then as well as applying existing discoveries, it must create the climate for new discoveries as well. We have an idea of what we expect from Industry 4.0. Perfect automation and digitisation, the possibility of custom design, remote management and control of a whole process under specific requirements. What we don’t know is, how the discoveries of tomorrow will affect this 4th industrial revolution. Because new ideas cannot be planned in advance.

Meanwhile just applying new ideas in industrial practice will lead to new products and new profits, and this new prosperity will then allow the financing of new discoveries. And so on and so on, in a virtuous circle of wealth, better quality of life and well-paid, interesting jobs.

And it is the last point that I would like to emphasise. There is in fact a concern that automation and digitisation will lead to high unemployment. But machines do not deprive people of work. They deprive them of drudgery. The job which disappears as a result of automation also allows the creation of a new job, or indeed many jobs. Thanks to higher productivity, more efficient use of resources, lower costs and higher GDP.

What we expect from large, successful and responsible companies, such as Škoda - Volkswagen and other companies represented here, is that they will support the trend towards these new and better-quality jobs. That in addition to applying existing technologies they will even more than today invest in the future, supporting education, science and research.

A greater level of automation will bring with it greater profits and lower costs. This makes it all the more possible to invest in the future, in education, science and research, from both private and public resources. I am convinced that this is in the best interests of companies also. These new jobs will required better educated staff. Maintaining competitiveness will require a further acceleration of the innovation cycle. Today Czech industry generates one-third of our GDP and provides work for one-third of the workforce. I see no reason for these proportions to go down. It is just that – partly thanks to Industry 4.0 – the structure of manufacturing must change. The factories of tomorrow will consume few fewer inputs, be it in the form of materials, energy, or manual labour, and will produce far more outputs in the form of sophisticated products with a higher knowledge content.

How can this be arranged? How can the state help? And what is the role of companies in this?

And now I come to what I promised to talk about in my introduction. How we wish to support collaboration between researchers and industrialists. At present these two groups have little mutual understanding. A consequence of this is that private companies receive 5 billion (crowns) in direct and indirect support from the public purse, but return only a billion of this to research institutions. I say this not as a reproach. But as evidence of the fact that the system is badly set up. And leads rather to support for tax optimisation and day-to-day application and improvement of products than to the introduction of genuinely break-through technologies and the use of truly new ideas and discoveries.

My aim is - in collaboration with you, businessmen and scientists – to increase the motivation for mutual collaboration. We have too few international patents, too few applied research results, too low a share of risk capital. For this reason, we are having a series of sector debates with individual branches of industry which are significant in terms of private investment in Research and Development.

For this reason, I am trying to put scientists and businessmen together. And for this reason also we are planning to set up a central authority after the manner of Germany, the USA and Israel, to coordinate all research activities and permit better compliance with national and European R&D priorities.

And therefore also we are working on the RIS3 strategy, the aim of which is the maximum use of the scientific and technical potential of the individual regions and of European, national, regional and private resources.

We want to change the assessment and support system for science so that it provides greater motivation to search out business partners in the innovation chain and accelerates the transfer of new discoveries into industrial practice.

I do not say that this system is ready to go and thought through in the last detail. But that indeed is the essence of scientific progress: openness and never-ending incompleteness. I would be pleased to discuss this with everyone affected and to hear the good ideas they have. Whether it be about the collaboration of universities and research institutions with businessmen. About support for risk capital funds and start-ups. About the demands of industry on the education system. About the transfer of knowledge and technologies.

I am convinced that we are all travelling on the same ship. Government, industry, scientists. Each successive industrial revolution is notable for its greater speed and tighter link between new ideas and new products. And of course that applies to Industry 4.0. also. We cannot tell where this revolution will take us. But here it really is true that the journey can be the destination. Let us set out on it. Together. As soon as possible. I thank you for your attention!