The first industrial revolution quite literally picked up steam in the mid-18th century, as adoption of the newly invented steam engine in combination with coal power and the mechanization of manufacturing lines fueled massive economy growth. A century later, the second industrial revolution saw the discovery of new energy sources—electricity, gas, and oil—which led to increased assembly line efficiency and the creation of the internal combustion engine, thus ushering forth automobiles and planes by the beginning of the 20th century. In the latter half of the 20th century, nuclear energy came on scene and the third industrial revolution got underway with the advent of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and robots, accelerating production processes with partial automation and opening the door to space exploration, biotech development, and new technology research. Now approaching the second quarter of the 21st century, we find ourselves in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, otherwise know as Industry 4.0.
What is Industry 4.0? While the full scope of this paradigm shift is not yet known, it is widely agreed upon that it started at the dawn of the third millennium with the ascendence of the Internet. It has given way to the ubiquitous implementation of information and communication technologies within industry, the full automation of so-called “smart factories” and cyber-physical production systems, the application of predictive algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), wide-scale conversion to Internet of Things (IoT) manufacturing environments, and an overall increase in operational capabilities through process optimization and value chain tracking.
As Industry 4.0 technologies continue to gain ground, many worry about the displacement of human workers with automation, AI, and digitalization, but experts are predicting a different outcome. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association (CMEA) estimates that 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce will retire by 2030, resulting in 2.1 million unfilled jobs in Canadian manufacturing if Industry 4.0 practices are not more widely integrated by outmoded businesses.[i] Currently, 55 percent of entrepreneurs report difficulties finding employees while 26 percent say they have trouble retaining them, and 64 percent say the labour shortage has limited their growth. That is why Industry 4.0 is being promoted as a means of augmenting the workforce to ensure that the Canadian economy keeps up with the time.
Not only will Industry 4.0 help address manufacturing labour shortage challenges via technological solutions, but it will simultaneously create new job opportunities for the next generation of tech-minded workers. The streamlined technology-augmented workforce to ensue is expected to be safer, healthier, and happier while driving productivity to ever-higher levels within companies that embrace this fourth industrial revolution. In recognition of such a critical matter, organizations like Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) offer a variety of funding solutions to facilitate digital transformation in advanced manufacturing through pilot project/feasibly study funding programs for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) all the way up to supercluster financing and resources for multi-million-dollar projects. Similarly, Canada’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) have emphasized current funding priorities and services in the advanced manufacturing arena, with new funding available to support business scale-up and productivity.
The Canadian government has also launched the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) with $4 billion in funds to help SMEs increase their capabilities through Industry 4.0 technologies via grants worth up to $15,000 per organization followed by an interest free loan of up to $100,000. Regardless of sector, startups and SMEs can benefit from CDAP, as a strong digital adoption strategy is key to an organization’s success, fostering digital literacy among employees becoming accustomed to a new digital culture.
It is no wonder that these digital transformation initiatives are being carried out by industry leaders. Take, for example, Michelin, the global tire and mobility company, who has been steadily incorporating augmented reality (AR), human-machine collaboration (cobotics), and AI tools to help operators control their machines. Or HP, the electronics manufacturer, who has worked to digitize operational processes from presales to maintenance while setting up an infrastructure to gain real-time insights on elements like supply chain and customer habits. Even within the government itself, transformation is underway, as Transport Canada prepares its workforce for a cloud migration to balance the supply and demand of IT services.
With NGen, RDAs, and CDAP programs offering billions of dollars in government funding, support, and training to Canadian businesses, there has never been a more opportune time to initiate your digital transformation and join the Industry 4.0 revolution, especially when considering an array of other non-dilutive funding opportunities within Canada. NorthBridge Consultants, in partnership with Nubinary and ITB Group, is bringing one of the largest privately organized pitch competitions in North America to Ontario. The Catalyze 2022 pitch competition will take place in early December, with focus falling on startups in all growth stages bringing disruptive and/or innovative technologies to smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0), manufacturing optimization and augmentation (AR), value chain tracking, and automotive/mobility sectors. Up to $55,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to the winners will be awarded at this pitch event, so do not miss the November 14, 2022, application deadline. More details including eligibility criteria and application information can be found here.
The government of Canada’s funding and assistance programs extend beyond strictly Industry 4.0 endeavors as well. Any scientific research and experimental development conducted within Canada has the potential to qualify for SR&ED tax credits. In an effort to encourage technological innovation in Canada, the SR&ED tax incentive program allows companies to ceaselessly push engineering boundaries and create cutting-edge technologies without the financial risk typically associated with experimentation and development. Programs like SR&ED drive Industry 4.0 expansion in Canada by extending the runway and bridging the funding gap for businesses striving to stay at the forefront of their sector and remain competitive in the new digital age. Industry-4.0-enabled facilities will only serve to expedite the discovery and development of novel technologies, providing a competitive advantage, as the more money a company saves through funding assistance, the more money it can spend on research and digital conversion. This will have exponential benefit in the post-pandemic era where remote work demands an unprecedent degree of digital literacy, automation, and virtual control over physical processes.
Industry 4.0 is here for the long haul. Leveraging all of these funding options will allow your business to adapt to the way of the future. From steam engines to smart factories and beyond, the industrial revolution never rests and neither does NorthBridge Consultants in our pursuit to help secure the maximum funding possible for our clients. Please reach out to learn more about funding and grant opportunities in Canada.