As global leaders recently gathered to discuss some of humanity’s most pressing issues at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, conversations and debates surrounding the accelerating digital transformation of business and society were among the most impassioned. Much has changed since the idea of a 4th Industrial Revolution was first introduced at WEF two years ago, and the world has moved ever-closer to a seismic shift that promises to fundamentally change every aspect of human society and the global economy. In fact, the World Economic Forum has estimated that the total value of this digital transformation across all industries could reach $100 trillion over the next 10 years.
Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain, big data, advanced robotics and 3D printing will be catalysts for the 4th Industrial Revolution. We’re already seeing how 3D printing is reinventing the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry by reducing costs, localizing production, shortening supply chains, reinventing product design, creating new markets and enabling customization at wide scale. It’s changing the way businesses think about how they conceive, design, produce and distribute products, and also promises to democratize both the manufacturing and design process.
So what needs to be done to create a participatory digital manufacturing future with benefits for all?
Create the Future Workforce
It all starts with training the next generation of workers to power this transformation now and into the future. According to the World Economic Forum’s recent report on the Future of Jobs, the 4th Industrial Revolution will create a higher-skilled, tech-savvy, global workforce equipped to support and advance new technologies and business models. And it won’t be limited to retraining existing workers. According to new research from HP and A.T. Kearney, 3 to 5 million new jobs could be created within the next ten years in the U.S. alone. The need for this new breed of engineers, designers and other skilled professionals who “think in 3D” will become increasingly urgent as the adoption of 3D printing technology accelerates across industries. Investment in educational programs that focus on training the new digital workforce, as well as the funding of educational institutions to for research in advancing 3D technology, will be vital in developing the innovation leaders of tomorrow.