The New Industrial Paradigm

Brussels, 24 September 2014

Foresight is a future and strategy-oriented process, which aims at bringing about one or more transformations in the system by mobilising collective intelligence. Foresight is used to identify long-term issues, to design a common and precise vision of the future of the organisation, company or territory, to build strategies to reach it and to implement measures in order to achieve the changes and tackle the challenges [1].

Futurists should therefore not be seen as gurus who would own the truth about the future, but as people who try to understand developments and are able to gather other actors and get them to work and think together.

It is commonplace, especially in times of economic difficulty or tensions, to hear it said or read that the crisis is not cyclical, but represents a structural transformation of the economy or society. What is being referred to is a paradigm shift.

1. What do we mean by a New Industrial Paradigm?

An attempt at the clearest possible identification of the « new industrial paradigm » towards which we are said to be moving first of all requires an explanation of the three words of which the term is composed.

1.1. A paradigm is essentially a model and a system of reference and of representation of the world, which we invent and construct mentally in an attempt to grasp and describe its components. The sociologist Edgar Morin describes paradigms as the principles of principles, the few dominant concepts that control minds and govern theories, without our being aware of them ourselves. He refers to today’s world in terms reminiscent of Schumpeter on innovation: « I think we are living in a time in which we have an old paradigm, an old principle that compels us to disconnect, to simplify, to reduce and to formalise without being able to communicate or ensure the communication of that which is disconnected, without being able to conceptualise entities and without being able to conceptualise the complexity of reality. We are in a period “between two worlds”: one that is dying but not yet dead, and another that wants to be born, but has not yet been born  » [2].

1.2. We describe this paradigm as industrial. In doing so we refer to the model that was introduced in Britain in the late eighteenth century and gave rise to economic activities based on the extraction and processing of raw materials and energy sources, by humans and machinery, in order to manufacture products and put them on the market for consumption.

1.3. Finally, we have said that this model is new. This means that we are seeing a renewal. This final dimension is by far the hardest for both you and me to grasp, so diverse and even contradictory are the signals that are sent to us by scientists and by economic, political or social actors. As the Professor at the University of California (Berkeley) Manuel Castells suggests, a society can be called new when structural transformation has occurred in the relations of production, in the relations of power, in interpersonal relations. These transformations bring about an equally significant change in social spatiality and temporality, and the emergence of a new culture [3].

The level we will consider in order to analyse the New Industrial Paradigm will be that of radical shifts, in other words profound and lasting transformations. I will start by drawing a distinction between observed shifts and desired shifts. For the former, an exploratory approach must be taken consisting of analysing and recording. For the latter, a normative approach is appropriate, and strategies need to be developed to achieve desired futures. The two may merge, reinforce one another or oppose one another. Transition is of course the sequence during which one passes to the heart of a change, transformation or shift.

Thus, I believe that the beginning of the 21st century is patterned by three main shifts.

2. The three shifts driving 21st century industry

2.1. We are still in the Industrial Society

The first shift is the deepening and extension of the paradigm born of the Industrial Revolution and described by Adam Smith in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776, then by Karl Marx in the first volume of Das Kapital (1867), and then of course by many others all the way down to Joseph E. Stiglitz [4] and Thomas Piketty [5] to name but a few. The reason that I point this out is because, unlike some others, I believe that we are continuing and will continue in this model for a long time. The model does not just involve mechanisation, capitalism, or a particular social model and a particular political model. It is a complex overall system born of a global shift. Of course, this system has undergone many waves of innovation, and various political and social systems. However, these changes have not affected the essence of the model. The French sociologist Alain Touraine long ago noted that we should not confuse a type of society – whether the industrial society or the information society – with its forms and its modes of modernisation. He pointed out that we had learned to distinguish the industrial society, as a societal type, from the process of industrialisation, which might be capitalist or socialist, for example [6]. In addition, the transition from the steam engine to the dynamo, to the diesel engine or to atomic energy did not cause sufficient shifts to change the nature of the model. It should therefore survive future waves of innovation and the new values and goals arising from the other shifts. It is true that industry’s contribution to GDP or employment is tending to decrease, as the European Commission has lamented. But leaving aside the fact that outsourcing skews the statistics, our entire society remains largely underpinned by industrial society and continues to largely fall within that category.

The reason why I stress this continuity is that some authors such as Jeremy Rifkin regularly announce the end of industry and the end of capitalism in the years ahead. Personally, I observe that we are continuing and will continue in this model for a long time.

2.2. We are now living the Cognitive Revolution

The second shift has been gradually observed since the late 1960s and especially since 1980. From Daniel Bell and Jean Fourastié [7] to William Halal [8], and from Thierry Gaudin [9] to John Naisbitt [10] and James Rosenau [11], many futurists have described how the industrial age is gradually giving way to a ‘cognitive age’, through a new revolution – The Cognitive Revolution. This latter affects the organisation of all aspects of civilisation, both production and culture, and is based on the many changes brought about by computing and genetics, and by the notion of information as an infinite resource [12]. Intelligence – grey matter – is the raw material, and its products are informational, and hence largely intangible.

The key factor in this shift is the convergence between, firstly, information and communication technology and secondly, the life sciences. In the long term, this development is broader and more significant than is commonly imagined. The general trend is for a phenomenal development in information management capacity. Thus, the accelerated growth of technologies for studying molecular biology is closely linked with the development of information and communication technologies. The case of genetics is obvious, but not isolated: computer tools have been created that can be used to analyse and understand the interactions between genes. It is the convergence between life sciences and information sciences that has really given molecular biology a boost.

But, as we have said, this observed shift also turned out to be a strategy when in March 2000 the Lisbon European Council set itself the task of establishing a new strategic goal for the decade 2000-2010: « to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion » [13]. Most of the policies that were subsequently conducted in the field of innovation had this same objective of « preparing the transition to a competitive, dynamic and knowledge-based economy » [14].

2.3. We are building a new harmony through Sustainable Development

The third shift was wanted. It is itself the result of three distinct but complementary processes reinforced by NASA’s Apollo Program, which greatly contributed to our collective awareness that the Blue Planet is a rather closed and fragile system. First, there has been the challenging of modernity and the critique of industrial society and the American way of life by intellectuals such as Herbert Marcuse [15], but also Donella Meadows [16] and Aurelio Peccei [17]. Next, there have been the environmental programmes of the United Nations, whose conferences, from Stockholm to Rio II, have constructed a new conceptual framework. Finally, there has been the human experience generated over time by ecological disasters, some of them very spectacular – such as Torrey Canyon (1967), Amoco Cadiz (1978), Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), Deepwater Horizon (2010) or Fukushima (2011) – which have contributed to an awareness of the biosphere’s fragility. Since the report of the Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (1987), the definition of sustainable development has been accepted as a major goal, stressing as it does the limits imposed by the need for harmony between humans and between mankind and nature. This goal of sustainable development has caused us to rethink our entire economic policies and the management of all our businesses in all areas of human activity, and to adopt a long-term view. Our industrial policies are being reformatted by the transition to a low-carbon society. New industrial approaches such as the circular economy and all its components represent a response to these new needs. The Secretary General of the Industrial Materials Association Europe, Michelle Wyart-Remy, is right in saying that resource efficiency is not just about using less resources but about using resources better. At every stage of the supply chain, industry is working to be increasingly resource-efficient. That path will maximise the efficiency of resources used [18] and will contribute to the decoupling of economic growth from resource use and its environmental impacts – a stated goal of the Europe 2020 Strategy [19].

 3. Four vital factors: materials, energy, structure of time and relationship with life

Bertrand Gille convincingly showed in his history of technology that it was the conjunction of rapidly rising levels of education in the population and the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge that drove technological progress forward and made the machine-based Industrial Revolution possible [20]. It is on the basis of that historian’s work that Thierry Gaudin and Pierre-Yves Portnoff have highlighted the fact that, in the three main technological destabilisations that the West has undergone, four vital factors – materials, energy, the structure of time and our relationship with life – were activated simultaneously. They described contemporary transformations:

– hyperchoice of materials and their horizontal seepage from applications in cutting-edge sectors to the most everyday forms of use;

– the tension between the power of nuclear energy and the economy of energy resources, in the context of recycling;

– our relationship with life and the immense field of biotechnology, including genetics;

– the new structure of time, divided into nanoseconds by microprocessors[21].

Although I have no wish to announce new structural changes, I do wish to assert that the three shifts – industrial societies in continuous transformation, the Cognitive Revolution building a new Knowledge Society, and Sustainable Development as a conscious search for harmony, will continue their interactions, and, hopefully, their convergence. For me, this is the New Industrial Paradigm in which we are living and working, and in which we will live and work for some decades.


Thus what is most surprising, alongside the speed and accelerating pace of change[22], is how long the shift is taking. Whereas Alvin Toffler thought in 1980 that the emergence of the ‘Third Wave’ would be a fait accompli in a few decades [23], we believe today that the change could extend over another century or two. These shifts are long-term movements which straddle time and conquer space. As we have indicated, the Industrial Revolution, which began in around 1700, continues to extend into new territories even as its effects are disappearing in other places. Likewise, in his analysis of the labour force in the United States, Professor William H. Halal of Washington University traces the long term of the knowledge society back to the late eighteenth century [24]. He also affirms his belief that the big changes are yet to come [25].

4. Five long-term challenges to tackle in order to face the New Industrial Paradigm

4.1. How can industry be reinforced with the innovations of the Cognitive Revolution?

Since the 1980s, we have observed the development of smart or intelligent materials able to respond to stimuli, thanks to the knowledge embedded in their structure in order to transform them. The reinforcement of the link between research and innovation is a classic issue. We can also point to the capacity to orient public research, and especially academic research, more effectively and to use industrial innovation in order to bridge the gap between science and industrial technology (market-driven research) through open innovation [26].

4.2. How can we concretely apply the principles of the circular economy to all the activities of the supply chain, in order to achieve a zero-waste business model for the industry of the future?

The circular economy appears to be a major line of development, with a global-to-local structure and underpinning systemic and cross-disciplinary policies pursued at European, national/federal, regional and divisional level. These policies are intended to fit together and link up with each other, becoming more and more concrete as and when they get closer to the actors on the ground, and therefore companies [27]. Although considerable improvements are still necessary to achieve a zero-waste business model, we know that such a strategy can help at a time when accessibility and affordability of raw materials is vital for ensuring the competitiveness of the EU’s industry [28].

4.3. How can we reduce energy consumption in order to improve the competitiveness of industry?

We know that the industrial sector consumes about half of the world’s total delivered energy. According to the US Information Energy Administration, despite the global crisis, energy consumption by the industrial sector worldwide is expected to increase by an average of 1.4% per year, growing by more than 50% by 2040 [29]. We are far from the target of a 40% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 on the EU agenda [30]. That is why the EU Council in Luxembourg on 13 June 2014emphasised the need to accelerate efforts in particular as regards reviewing the Energy Efficiency Directive in a timely manner [31].

4.4. How can we prepare the different actors, and especially companies, for the Low-Carbon Economy?

The EU Commission has stressed the need to develop new low-carbon production technologies and techniques for energy-intensive material processing industries. Technology Platforms have been established and Lead Market Initiatives have been introduced. The Sustainable Industry Low Carbon (SILC I & II) initiatives aim to help sectors achieve specific GHG emission intensity reductions, in order to maintain their competitiveness. The involvement of companies, including SMEs, in these projects as well as the development of public-private collaboration are needed to ensure the deployment and commercialisation of the innovations in this field, including carbon capture and storage [32].

4.5. How can we build a real partnership between policymakers, civil society and companies in order to create positive / win-win multilevel governance?

With the new public governance, born in the 1990s, the role of companies themselves, but also of their commercial, sectorial, or territorial representatives, from individual cities up to European level and higher, has moved towards the building of common partnership policies. I prefer that term to ‘public policies’ because the incapacity of political leaders, who have failed to activate the stakeholders, is widely recognised nowadays. But we all know that the process of organising democratic and efficient multilevel governance is very difficult, and needs exceptional people to run it, with strong leadership and a real openness to the culture of the other actors. These decision-makers are the ones who will provide their country or their region with strategic thinking and implementation capacities. They are also the ones who will shape the environment for entrepreneurship and create the institutional framework that can enable companies, including SMEs, to reach their full potential [33].

Conclusion: Are we ready?

These long-term challenges are mostly present in the Industrial Materials Association – Europe roadmap as identified issues. What is crucial is for the people involved in working with these issues on a day-to-day basis to identify, with precision, what processes and measures they will have to introduce, year after year, in response to them.

The CEO of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for Human Progress, Pierre Calame, said rightly, some years ago, that Huge shifts await us, comparable in magnitude to the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. The ability of our societies to understand and manage these shifts will be decisive for the future. Are we ready? [34]

The power to change lies in your hands: do not be afraid!

Philippe Destatte

[1] See: Philippe DESTATTE, What is Foresight?, Blog PhD2050, Brussels, May 30, 2013.

This text is the reference paper of a conference presented at The Industrial Materials Association (IMA-Europe) 20th Anniversary, IMAGINE event, Brussels, The Square, September 24th, 2014.

About the challenges, see: Jerome C. GLENN, Theodore J. GORDON & Elizabeth FLORESCU dir., 2013-14, State of the Future, , Washington, The Millennium Project, 2014.

[2] Edgar MORIN, Science et conscience de la complexité, dans Edgar MORIN et Jean-Louis LE MOIGNE, L’intelligence de la complexité, p. 40, Paris-Montréal, L’Harmattan, 1999.

[3] Manuel CASTELLS, The Information Age, Economy, Society and Culture, Oxford, Blackwell, 2000. – L’ère de l’information, t. 3, Fin de Millénaire, p. 398 et 403, Paris, Fayard, 1999.

[4] Joseph E. STIGLITZ & Bruce C. GREENWALD, Creating a Learning Strategy: A New Approach to Growth, Development and Social Progress, New York, Columbia University Press, 2014.

[5] Thomas PIKETTY, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Boston, Harvard University Press, 2014.

[6] Alain TOURAINE, Préface, dans Manuel CASTELLS, L’ère de l’information, t. 1, La société en réseaux, p. 9, Paris, Fayard, 2001.

[7] Jean FOURASTIE, La civilisation de 1995, p. 123, Paris, PUF, 1974.

[8] William HALAL, A Forecast of the Information Revolution, in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Août 1993, p. 69-86. – William E. HALAL and Kenneth B. TAYLOR, Twenty-First Century Economics, Perspectives of Socioeconomics for a Changing World, New York, St Martin’s Press, 1999.

[9] Thierry GAUDIN, Introduction à l’économie cognitive, La Tour d’Aigues, L’Aube, 1997. – Th. GAUDIN, L’Avenir de l’esprit, Prospectives, Entretiens avec François L’Yvonnet, Paris, Albin Michel, 2001. – Th. GAUDIN, Discours de la méthode créatrice, Entretiens avec François L’Yvonnet, Gordes, Le Relié, 2003. – Th. GAUDIN, L’impératif du vivant, Paris, L’Archipel, 2013. – See also: Pierre VELTZ, La grande transition, Paris, Seuil, 2008.

[10] John NAISBITT, Megatrends, New York, Warner Books, 1982. – John NAISBITT & Patricia ABURDENE, Megatrends 2000, New York, William Morrow, 1989.

[11] James N. ROSENAU, Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier, Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World, Cambridge University Press, 1997. – James N. ROSENAU et J. P. SINGH éd., Information Technologies and Global Politics, The Changing Scope of Power and Governance, New York, State University of New York Press, 2002. –

[12] William E. HALAL ed., The Infinite Resource, San Francisco, Jossey Bass, 1998.

[13] Conseil européen de Lisbonne : conclusions de la présidence, Council documents mentioned in the Annex to be found under Presse Release, p. 2, Lisbon (24/3/2000) Nr: 100/1/00 – – 20/04/02

[14] Ibidem.

[15] Herbert MARCUSE, One-Dimensional Man, Boston, Beacon Press, 1964.

[16] Donella H. MEADOWS et al. Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind, New American Library, 1977 (1972).

[17] Aurelio PECCEI, The Chasm Ahead, New York, Macmillan, 1969.

[18] Imagine the Future with Industrial Minerals, 2050 Roadmap, p. 24-25 & 37, Brussels, IMA-Europe, 2014. The industrial minerals sectors estimates that up to 60% of all minerals consumed in Europe are recycled along with the glass, paper, plastics or concrete in which they are used (p. 37). The goal for 2050 is a 20% improvement in recycling of industrial materials (p. 38). – Recycling Industrial Materials, Brussels, IMA-Europe, October 2013.

[19] Reindustrialising Europe, Member’ States Competitiveness, A Europe 2020, Initiative, Commission Staff working Document, Report 2014, SWD(2014) 278, September 2014, p. 42. – Europe 2020 Strategy, « A Ressource-efficient Europe »… #

[20] Bertrand GILLE, Histoire des Techniques, coll. Bibliothèque de la Pléade, Paris, Gallimard, 1978.

[21] Thierry GAUDIN et André-Yves PORTNOFF, Rapport sur l’état de la technique : la révolution de l’intelligence, Paris, Ministère de la Recherche, 1983 et 1985.

[22] John SMART, Considering the Singularity : A Coming World of Autonomous Intelligence (A.I.), dans Howard F. DIDSBURY Jr. éd., 21st Century Opprtunities an Challenges : An Age of Destruction or an Age of Transformation, p. 256-262, Bethesda, World Future Society, 2003.s

[23] Alvin TOFFLER, La Troisième Vague, … p. 22. – il est intéressant de noter avec Paul Gandar que Toffler n’a pas pu décrire le passage à la société de la connaissance par l’effet du numérique. Paul GANDAR, The New Zealand Foresight project dans Richard A. SLAUGHTER, Gone today, here tomorrow, Millennium Preview, p. 46, St Leonards (Australia), Prospect Media, 2000.

[24] William HALAL, The New Management, Democracy and enterprise are transforming organizations, p. 136, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 1996.

[25] William H. HALAL, The Infinite Resource: Mastering the Boundless Power of Knowledge, dans William H. HALAL & Kenneth B. TAYLOR, Twenty-First Century Economics…, p. 58-59.

[26] Imagine Roadmap…, p. 33 & 50.

[27] Ph. DESTATTE, The circular economy: producing more with less, Blog PhD2050, Namur, August 26, 2014.

[28] Reindustrialising Europe…, p. 42.

[29] Industrial Sector Energy consumption, US Energy Information Administration, Sep. 9, 2014.

[30] EU’s Energy Efficiency review puts high target on agenda, in Euractiv, June 17, 2014.

[31] EU Council of The European Union, Council conclusions on « Energy prices and costs, protection of vulnerable consumers and competitiveness, Council Meeting Luxembourg, 13 June 2014. Roadmap…, p. 29.

[32] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, An Integrated Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era Putting Competitiveness and Sustainability at Centre Stage, Brussels, COM(2010), 614 final, 28.10.2010, p. 30. Roadmap…, p. 31.

About SILC:

[33] « Countries’ overall direction is shaped by their ability to define their interests and assets (including industrial), have a clear vision of the challenges and risks ahead, set coherent long-term goals, make informed policy choices and manage uncertainty. Leading, enabling and delivering strategic policy- making requires strong leadership and effective strategic-thinking skills in public institutions. It calls for a strong centre of the government that is capable of promoting coherent cross-departmental cooperation and better implementation of government reform programmes. The consultation of expert communities as well as the general public on future trends, opportunities and risks offers the chance to engage more strongly with the public and helps (re)build trust in government. » Reindustrialising Europe…, p. 60 & 55. – Imagine Roadmap…, p. 23 & 49.

[34] Pierre CALAME, Jean FREYSS et Valéry GARANDEAU, La démocratie en miettes, Pour une révolution de la gouvernance, p. 19, Paris, Descartes et Cie, 2003.


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