The Universities of the Future is an ongoing European Erasmus+ project focusing on the transition towards Industry 4.0 in the context of Higher Education Institutions and industries across the continent.

The Industry 4.0 scenario refers to a new way of organising production media characterised by the implementation and connection of advanced technologies. This new revolution will blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres with radically disruptive implications in all domains of activities, and will dramatically change the approaches and outcomes expected from Higher Education. Therefore understanding, adjusting and healthily implementing such changes in a field as transversal as (in-work and pre-work) education is of vital importance now more than ever. Platoniq is excited to be part of such a challenge and sees some clear priorities for the years to come.

Identifying hard and soft skills required in Industry 4.0 and creating quality educational assets will be a major challenge. This could be tackled by re-training people who are already in the workforce; by identifying successful pioneering initiatives and pedagogical models (or coming up with new ones); and by providing a framework for the co-creation of new training programs, that effectively meet the demands of equipping the workforce with the skills that are needed, not forgetting the training of the next generation of the workforce towards Industry 4.0. The role of the teachers is crucial here, as they will be the guides and facilitators of a completely different learning processes from the one we are currently used to seeing.

Building up a Universities of the Future network preparing this change towards Education 4.0 is something that will require attention and work from the project partners, designing a roadmap to catalyze the creation of the Open Partnership of UoF and its means, as well as finding systems to sustain an effective collaborative network. Prototyping the kind of decentralized alliances between HEIs, alumni and businesses will be necessary in the years to come.

Finally, one of the biggest debates taking place across different fields is centered on the ethics of Industry 4.0. Even the European Economic and Social Committee has called for a code of ethics to cover the development, application and use of it, to make sure, for example, that “AI systems remain compatible with the principles of human dignity, integrity, freedom and cultural and gender diversity, as well as with fundamental human rights”.

Platoniq is reflecting on whether, however, considerations on ethics often only take into account individual misuses of technology, such as weaponization, data protection issues, robot mistreats, etc, and do not have a systemic outlook, failing to see the amplification of injustice which is a fundamental challenge to tackle. Structural oppression exists across our communities and societies: without active transformation of power relations, AI and Industry 4.0 will perpetuate, reproduce and amplify this harm. Also, whose responsibility is it to lead a socially and environmentally just transition to the future of industry and education? How to ensure that the weight of this change does not only fall on the shoulders of individuals endeavoring towards a professional re-training or risking being laid off?

Learning from Platoniq’s experience in social innovation and participation processes, we believe that one of the methods to keep these reflections front and center is to come up with solutions in a collaborative way, involving actors experiencing different sides of the issue. As you can further read here, “co-creation taps into the collective insight and potential of groups, and can be used to generate breakthrough solutions when existing models fall short. It is especially useful when bringing together diverse stakeholders facing a common challenge”, which is exactly the case of the Universities of the Future project.

In order to support the collaboration between different sectors, to translate the co-creation methodology into practice and to keep the human justice and sustainability point of view central to the future development of Industry 4.0 (as the signers from the Copenhagen Letter hope), Platoniq has organised the “Train the Trainers”, a two days event which has helped participants prepare the 33 events foreseen in the Universities of the Future project.

Academia and business partners across Portugal, Finland and Poland are the main responsible organizations for the implementation of the Universities of the Future small-scale events. In total 33 events will be promoted and designed to meet a specific need of the Universities of the Future project, having distinct goals and targets.

The Train The Trainers event was held in Inca, at the beautiful space of the Fabrica Ramis, a wonderful example of the city´s post-industrial presence in Mallorca (Spain). Last September 12th, project partners left the island with a great deal of engagement and excitement to explore the necessary skills, mindset and tools that Platoniq has supported in developing along the two days of intense work. Platoniq is taking part in this change, challenge, in a collaborative and critical way, believing that we are now on the same page and on the right track to boost the project and existing activities planned for the next months.

Article written by Andrea Echeverria Fernandez – retrieved from Platonic blogspot

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