BreakThrough Study Idea

How will "Manufacturing" change under the SDGs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?Junichi Sone (Principal Fellow, Center for Research and Development Strategy, Japan Science and Technology Agency)

<Series 1 (Total 4 series)>


  • facebook
  • twitter

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and SDGs are being driven by AI and IoT. Global movements seemingly far removed from the daily business of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are changing society, and the impacts range from what products and services are in demand, to manufacturing methods. How should SMEs engaged in manufacturing operate in these circumstances?

In four segments we will ask Junichi Sone, Principal Fellow and Lea of the Nanotechnology and Materials Unit at the Center for Research and Development Strategy (CRDS) of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), which makes scientific proposals to the government, about a wide range of topics from looming societal changes to advice for SMEs.

◆ What are SDGs?
SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of global goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 for the years 2016 through 2030 under the "2030 Agenda for sustainable development." The agenda consists of 17 goals such as "poverty," "hunger," "climate change," "energy," and "education" and 169 targets laid down for specific targets under these 17 goals for achieving a sustainable society. They were adopted with the participation of more than 150 member state leaders to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) formulated in 2001. At the July 2017 session of the United Nations General Assembly, 232 indicators were adopted for measuring the progress of each of the targets.

◆ What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The "industrial revolution" (the first industrial revolution) commonly refers to the "mechanization of plants powered by hydropower and steam engines" that occurred in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The shape of the world and industry were massively changed by the second industrial revolution driven by mass production that utilized the division of labor and electricity from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and by the third industrial revolution driven by automation using electronics and information technology from the second half of the 20th century. And in recent years, advancing technological innovation has revolved around the use of data networks and big data driven by IoT, as well as further automation and autonomy driven by AI. This is referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


"In-demand products and technologies" change with SDGs

AI and IoT use the power of technology to change the way society and business work. These reports have been increasingly visible over the past few years. However, many people may not yet be aware that international agreements such as the SDGs and Paris Agreement are even changing business needs.

EVs are rapidly spreading in part because of the Paris Agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the same level as absorbed emissions in the second half of this century, the British and French governments moving to ban fossil fuel vehicles, and companies focusing their efforts on EV development. As awareness of the SDGs for "energy," "water," "good health and well-being" increases, a wider range of fields is likely to be impacted.

"Manufacturing companies are essential to achieving SDG goals. "Clean water" requires water purification equipment and seawater desalination equipment, and "good health and well-being" will likely benefit from medical and nursing care robots and high-precision sensors. Challenges for "energy" are promoting renewable energy generation and the efficient use of energy. "Responsible consumption and production" will require solutions in development, production, and sales processes, such as the effective use and recycling of resources."

It is important to both develop various equipment and also to develop materials and devices that greatly improve their performance. For example, the performance of water purification equipment and seawater desalination equipment depends on promising catalysts and filtration membrane materials. Now that the development of new materials and devices driven by nanotechnology and biotechnology is a potential technology improvement engine for a wide range of fields such as the environment, medical care, and information communication, manufacturing companies are clearly involved in more and more ways.
An agreement that establishes an international framework for addressing global warming starting in 2020. It was adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris in December 2015.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the shape of society

With SDGs and the Paris Agreement changing societal and business needs, the movement known as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" driven by advanced technologies such as AI and IoT has changed the shape of society and industry in a major way.

"Automated driving (autonomous driving) and drones are increasingly used in the mobility field, and in the field of health and medical care, customized treatment based on personal data and the introduction of medical and nursing care robots are advancing fast. Most homes will be smart homes that can be controlled via the Internet, and most factories will be smart factories with production management and industrial robots utilizing IoT and AI. "

IT is even advancing into fields where it lagged behind such as agriculture, nursing, and infrastructure development thanks to the greatly improved accuracy of AI-driven image recognition and voice recognition. In the agriculture industry we will increasingly see an unmanned automated tractor cultivating the field, and a robot harvesting the crop by looking at its growth. With infrastructure development we will increasingly see drones checking bridges for corrosion and a robot repairing it.

"Semiconductors are essential for the sensors, IoT devices, and computer equipment needed for this. Now that performance improvements due to the miniaturization of semiconductors are approaching their limit, it is more important than ever to approach the challenge not only from a materials and device standpoint but also from the standpoint of design philosophy and implementation technology."

The above-mentioned technological innovations in nanotechnology and materials will likely contribute to creating Society 5.0 and achieving the SDGs


In a world where the real and virtual are fused

When thinking about these changes in the world, it is important to remember the perspective of the "fusion of the virtual world and the real world."

"Up to now, IT has mainly been used in virtual spaces such as computers and the Internet. However, IT is also entering the real spaces where we live. For example, it is becoming possible to optimize operations by processing a huge amount of data collected on-site at a factory or retail store in real time. Manufacturing and marketing will change, with various new forms of information-based business arising, and the value of data should further increase."

As countries focus on measures to win in the second phase of IT, "How to utilize IT in the real world," the government will present a vision of Japanese society in the near future, "Society 5.0". We are working to create a "people-first society that balances economic development and solving social issues through a system that combines cyber space (virtual space) and physical space (real space).

Companies that understand the changes mentioned in this article and can respond to these changes will be able to take advantage of future opportunities.

Defined as a "people-first society that balances economic development and solving social issues through a system that combines cyber space (virtual space) and physical space (real space)," it follows the hunter society (Society 1.0), agricultural society (Society 2.0), industrial society (Society 3.0), information society (Society 4.0).

Series "Leveraging our technology in a world changed by SDGs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution"

Series 1 How will "Manufacturing" change under the SDGs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Series 2 What technologies are required to solve societal challenges in the SDGs era?
Series 3 How will "Manufacturing" change under the SDGs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Series 4 Leveraging our technology in a world changed by SDGs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Junichi Sone
Japan Science and Technology Agency Center for Research and Development Strategy Principal Fellow

In 1975, he completed a master's degree in physics from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Science and joined the Central Research Laboratories of NEC Corporation. In 1983, obtained a Doctor of Science from the University of Tokyo. After serving as Director of NEC's Fundamental Research Laboratories, Director of the Fundamental and Environmental Research Laboratories, and Manager of the Central Research Laboratories, he has been Executive Vice President of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) since 2010. He has been in the current position since 2015. JST-CREST “Nanosystem Creation” Research Supervisor and President of the Society of Nano Science and and Technology. Recognized as Fellow of the Japan Society of Applied Physics and Executive Vice President Emeritus of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). He specializes in nanotechnology, quantum information technology, environmental energy technology, and advanced materials.

◇Main authored and edited works
- Hyomen kaimen no butsuri (Sirizu bussei butsuri no shintenkai) (Surface and interface physics [New developments in physical property physics]) (Author and editor. Maruzen, 1996)
- Nano kozo sakuseigijyutsu no kiso (Sirizu bussei butsuri no shintenkai) (Fundamentals of nanofabrication technology [New developments in physical property physics]) (Author and editor. Maruzen, 1996)

Coverage date September 2, 2019

share by SNS

related article