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Patrizio Bianchi, Sandrine Labory and Clemente Ruiz Durán

The beginning of the twenty-first century is turning out to be full of disruptions and challenges for economies and societies. Climate change, world population growth, migratory pressures, are pressing challenges; the financial crisis has had a dramatic effect and many economies have had difficulties in recovering their pre-crisis development level. Meanwhile, innovation and technological changes are accelerating, in various fields including genomics, nanotechnologies, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and big data, robotics and artificial intelligence, new materials, and others. ICTs, with the Internet of Things (IoT), the Cloud, big data, are allowing hyper-connection of people and objects and digitisation of production processes. The change induced is so disruptive that there is quite wide consensus that we are experiencing an industrial revolution, the fourth one. New means of production and new products are appearing and will continue doing so, changing individuals’ life in important aspects, namely economic, social and cultural.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

Chapter 6 concludes the book by summarising the main ideas and pointing to the main issues that should be further examined in this era of digital globalisation spurred by the fourth industrial revolution. One issue is the generalisation of the specific case of comprehensive industrial policy as that implemented in the Emilia-Romagna region. Another issue regards privacy and monopoly power in the new industrial system.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

Chapter 5 puts together the analysis carried out in previous chapters to discuss the industrial policy implications of the fourth industrial revolution. The main idea is that manufacturing revolutions call for comprehensive industrial policy. A focus is made on industrial policy at the regional level, and it is shown, through the experience of the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, that regions have a role to play in designing and implementing comprehensive industrial policies effective in preparing their industries and population for the industrial revolution. It is argued that in times of important change the objective of industrial policy should be resilience, namely the capacity of the economy and the society to adapt.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

Chapter 2 examines the previous industrial revolutions, showing not only the important technological innovations introduced in each of them but also the deep impact they have on the society and culture. The main reason is that industrial revolutions are primarily transitions in prevailing production processes, or manufacturing regimes. Industrial revolutions are very complex phenomena and this has to be taken into account in the analysis of the fourth industrial revolution and its policy implications. Particular attention is paid to the deep changes in educational systems associated with industrial revolutions, as this might be a lesson in policy for the current – fourth – industrial revolution.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

Chapter 3 analyses the fourth industrial revolution: what technological innovations are involved, to what extent the speed of change in this revolution is faster than in previous revolutions, the impact on manufacturing systems and the position and efforts of different countries in this deep transformation. An important characteristic of this revolution is that data seems to be the raw material of this new development phase. Digitalisation and hyperconnection are thus key transforming strategic elements of socio-economic systems, and industry in particular. A new manufacturing regime seems to be emerging, after mass production and flexible production of the second and third revolutions respectively, namely mass customisation.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

This introductory chapter to the book reviews global trends in markets, focusing on globalisation and digitalisation. It is argued that the global economy seems to have entered a new phase after the financial crisis, whereby flows of goods no longer exponentially rise while data flows boom. This new phase can therefore be called ‘digital globalisation’, spurred by the fourth industrial revolution, the meaning and implications this book aims at analysing, especially regarding industry and industrial policy.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

Chapter 4 goes deeper in the analysis of the effects of digitalisation and hyperconnection, by focusing on the new market intermediaries, online platforms. Their boom in recent years is analysed, as well as their disrupting effects on certain industries. The economic analysis of platforms is reviewed. In terms of impact on industry and policy implications, the new issues raised in terms of privacy and especially market power are outlined, claiming that further reflection is needed to avoid monopolisation.

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Patrizio Bianchi and Sandrine Labory

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Cristiano Antonelli and Alessandra Colombelli

This chapter explores the knowledge cost function, the study of which makes possible important progress in grasping the determinants of the large variance in the cost of innovation across firms. The amount of external knowledge and internal stocks of knowledge that firms can access and use in the generation of new technological knowledge helps firms reduce the costs of innovation. The empirical section is based upon companies listed on the financial markets in the UK, Germany, France and Italy for the period 1995–2006 for which information about patents have been gathered. The econometric analysis of the costs of innovation knowledge considers the unit costs of patents alongside R & D expenditure and the stock of internal and external knowledge for each firm. The results confirm that the stock of internal knowledge and access to external knowledge play key roles in assessing the actual capability of each firm to generate new technological knowledge.

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Cristiano Antonelli and Agnieszka Gehringer

This chapter shows how and why the use of external knowledge is necessary to complement the recombinant generation of new knowledge. When access to external knowledge occurs at costs below the social value of knowledge, firms benefit from pecuniary knowledge externalities and are actually able to introduce productivity-enhancing innovations. The empirical evidence on 20 OECD countries confirms that the growth of total factor productivity is negatively associated with the costs of knowledge. Total factor productivity thus increases faster where and when the costs of knowledge are lower.