Inclusion and co-creation: Essential ingredients for the large-scale acceptance of digital solutions


The project Social Acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (SAAI) researched the obstacles of large scale implementation of Industry 4.0 and came with some clear conclusions on why inclusion and co-creation are essential for adoption.

The next industrial revolution

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular and digitalisation in general are said to give rise to the fourth industrial revolution: Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 entails the promise of a shift from automated manufacturing toward an intelligent manufacturing concept. However, there are some obstacles on the way to really implement the concept on large scale.

Industry 4.0 obstacles

The obstacles of large scale industry 4.0 include societal issues such as a limited willingness to adopt to new technologies, described in terms of (company) culture, hype, and the training of staff.

• In many cases, higher educated management seizes the opportunities of smart innovations while lower educated employees have to deal with the threats of automation (for example job insecurity).
• The digitisation of the industry and its societal challenges should be seen as a balancing act between what is technologically feasible and what is labor-politically desirable: the operators should be involved in the design process of the new digital systems to give them the chance to speak out their concerns.
• Task identity is very important for operators. Digitalisation threatens this task identity resulting in resistance among operators to safeguard a sense of dignity in one’s respective job. Having employees involved in the innovation process could help foster a new sense of task identity; being able to contribute to and understand in what ways one adds to the production AND the innovation process and help determine one’s new role.

Inclusion and co-creation

So, if the process industry wants to become ‘smart’ its innovators should be keen to develop skills and to safeguard meaningful work. This is done by creating a work environment that fosters involvement and participation. Let’s be real – inclusion in the innovation process doesn’t mean everybody has to agree; inclusion means employees need to be heard and given an answer. So let’s stop talking about adoption and start talking about inclusion and co-creation!


This project is co-funded with subsidy from the Topsector Energie by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.