Research results


Publications of researchers


This is an Open Access book.

In 2015, Industry 4.0 was announced with the rise of industrialization by the European Parliament, supporting policy, research, and infrastructure funding. In 2020, Industry 5.0 was launched as an evolution of Industry 4.0, towards societal and ecological values in a sustainable, human-centric, and resilient transition. In 2023, the IN4ACT research project team completed 4 years of research on the impact on these initiatives.

Presentations reviewing the progress of management practices and economics led to conversations about what’s next. The unanticipated rise in late 2022 of Generative AI technologies (e.g. ChatGPT, DALL-E) sparked dialogues with an extended circle of researchers on impacts not considered in 2015 or in 2020.

This collection of chapters reflects multiple perspectives on research findings to 2023, prospects for 2024, and considerations on ways the techno-economic industrial revolutions may be reshaped into desirable futures respecting social and ecological concerns.


Susu Nousala is a Project Researcher with the IN4ACT project at Kauno Technologijos Universitetas (KTU) School of Economics and Business. She is Founder and Director of the Creative Systemic Research Platform (CSRP) Institute centered in Ticino, Switzerland. Recent appointments have included: Professor of Design and Innovation at Tongji University (Shanghai; and China Scholar Professor at Wuhan University of Technology; and Senior Research Fellow at Aalto University (Helsinki, ). Her time is segmented across offices in Espoo, Finland; Móra d’Ebre, Spain; and Melbourne, Australia.

Gary S. Metcalf is President of InterConnections LLC, coaching executive leaders and consulting on human resources. He is a past-president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, and is a Fellow and past-president of the International Federation for Systems Research. Book series that he has edited include Translational System Sciences (Springer Japan), and IFSR Systems Sciences and Systems Engineering (Springer USA). Appointments have included Professor of Leadership and Management at Saybrook University, and Distinguished Lecturer at Sullivan University. He works in Ashland, Kentucky and Atlanta, Georgia.

David Ing is a Research Fellow with Creative Systemic Research Platform (CSRP) Institute, as well as a Research Fellow with Code for Canada. He serves as a Trustee for the International Society for the Systems Sciences, with a prior role as past-president. A previous 28-year career at IBM Canada included assignments in management consulting, headquarters planning and executive education. Previous book projects include Open Innovation Learning, and The Marketing Information Revolution. He resides in Toronto, Canada.

ABSTRACT. The aim of this chapter is to investigate mechanisms for improving supply chain open innovation networks (SCOINET) while improving capabilities. In doing so, we explore the determinants to improve SCOINET. These determinants come under the umbrella of two types of capabilities related to technology being employed and interactions happening in SCOINET. By applying a twofold research method, this study employs the analytical hierarchical process (AHP) and interpretive structural modelling (ISM). In doing so, AHP is applied to prioritize and rank the capabilities with respect to their relevance for improving SCOINET. The prioritized technological capabilities are technological capacity and technological orientation, while the interactive capabilities are digital trust and relational capital. Moreover, the ISM technique is applied to ascertain the interactions and interdependencies of these capabilities. As a result of this study, a framework is developed to facilitate collaborations and functioning of SCOINET to make them integrated, visible, and resilient. This framework guides policy makers to develop open innovation networks not only for the supply chain but also for other functions. This is the first ever study to present capability framework for SCOINET. Finally, researchers are provided with directions to conduct further research related to SCOINET.

ABSTRACT. Purpose – Industry 4.0 brings new opportunities and challenges. This paper aims to focus on understanding how the affordances of digital technologies contribute to the integration of business processes in the context of Industry 4.0.
Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative case analysis is used to reveal the affordances of digital technologies for the integration of business processes. A manufacturing company, the producer of professional stainless-steel kitchens, which is known for the adoption of digital technologies, was selected for the research. Interviews, archival data and nonparticipant observation are the main data collection methods.
Findings – This study contributes to the general business process management field. Case analysis shows that digital technologies facilitate the integration of business processes, specifically certain affordances, such as accessing and updating, sharing and initiating.
Research limitations/implications – This study is of a single case and therefore has some limitations.
Future research should focus on the analysis of more cases for a better understanding of business process integration in the context of Industry 4.0.
Practical implications – The results of this research will help business managers better understand the importance of the development and proper adaptation of digital technologies in an organization.
Originality/value – This research has a twofold contribution to the fields of business process
management and business process integration. First, the authors reveal how digital technologies facilitate business processes management in the context of Industry 4.0; and second, the authors identify the main mechanisms through which digital technologies contribute to business process integration.

ABSTRACT. Although Intelligent Automation (IA) represents the future of business automation, the organizational implementation and sustainability performance of this emerging technological innovation is vastly understudied. Understanding the implications of IA for sustainability is critical since leveraging these technologies shapes operations and policies that can promote sustainable digitalization and automation practices. We study how firms’ technological, organizational, environmental, and human resource contexts impact IA implementation. The study further explains how IA may associate with the firm’s triple bottom line while accounting for the moderating role of corporate social responsibility strategy. The study surveyed 207 multinational firms in 2022 and used partial least square-structural equation modeling to test the hypothesized relationships. Results showed that IA implementation is mainly determined by the characteristics of the firm’s internal environment, such as absorptive capacity, employee socio-behavioral concerns, and social capital competency. IA may offer valuable opportunities for boosting the firm’s economic and environmental sustainability performance. Nonetheless, IA is a double-edged sword for social sustainability, harming social values in implementing firms with informal corporate social sustainability strategies. Conversely, firms with formal corporate social sustainability strategy have a significantly higher opportunity to transform the value of IA into social sustainability performance. Findings are expected to assist managers and decision-makers with streamlining an impartial and sustainable transition of organizations toward automation.

ABSTRACT. This paper discusses and examines the concept of preconditions and their possible impact on any systemic supporting structures related to human and non-human ecological communities. Preconditions are defined and discussed in this work as phenomena that exist, seen or unseen, as part of the initial stages of a developing community system (for both human and non-human). Recent evaluations of cases and models have highlighted how preconditions may enhance or weaken developing support structures of any ecological community system. These observations and outcomes were based on several previous cases, with targeted literature reviews and field work. The research spans across several different disciplines, with a common emergent thread, based on insights afforded by an interdisciplinary approach. The impact of preconditions within systems of sustainable ecological community structures, are essentially virtual with emergent physical properties and outcomes. The practical and ecological community implications of this work lie in the provision of better insights into the how, why, and what are the existing, dynamic conditions towards sustained, future community development. The impact on dynamic community evolution involves countless dynamic relationships. This work presents reviews, based on evaluations on a range of approaches to capture a sense of what occurs within these complex environments and the abilities we need to visualize and communicate these actions. These virtual, and ultimately physical, transitional states are very relevant when considering the impact of what are essentially, bottom-up relationships. This work highlights the importance and impact of preconditions within an ecological community, and the dynamics involved with achieving a sustained state or “equilibrium”, whilst attempting to absorb new conditions that the community may be encountering.

ABSTRACT. The World Music School community is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) that teaches music and organises events internationally around dance and music activities. This case study investigates community connectivity and resilience development in the World Music School (WMS) Helsinki community of practice and the Shanghai WMS community of interest. Using a social ecological system approach, the community structures and relationships were explored and supported by the literature. In particular, the research focused on the feedback loops at different levels within each community structure. The WMS core activities are viewed as inclusive and human connectivity enhancers. Focusing on human connectivity, the research investigated the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the NGO’s involvement in building its community structure as it revealed what is essential for community resilience. This research discusses how connections between shocks and disturbances within the community systems were identified and the various outcomes when identifying and approaching acute weakness within the community structures. This case study examines how the WMS communities enhance community resilience across a complex social system starting at the individual level and then extending to physically close environmental relationships. These complex community structures provided a lens to focus on identifying the initial stages for resilient community connectivity. Observing these connections provided a basis for developing a synthesised model based on discussions in previous literature reviews. The processes involved with the model development included the critical roles, impacts and evolution of the World Music School community. This article argues that systemic change can happen when small but fundamental changes are longitudinally obtained through bottom-up approaches. The WMS communities have displayed the potential to make a difference towards connectivity and subsequent community resilience, beginning with the individual and extending to the overall social ecological system level.

ABSTRACT. Technological learning within national innovation systems (NIS) stands at the core of technological upgrading at the firm and economy level. The common understanding is that NIS are the primary source of technological knowledge acquisition for innovating firms, but the opening of economies, the globalization of innovation networks, and the rapid internationalization of innovative firms challenge this view — especially with respect to small open economies in transition. We applied PLS-SEM to data from 131 R&D intensive firms responding to a survey investigating the mediating role of international networks for technological learning within Lithuania’s NIS. The findings demonstrate a full mediating role of global innovation system networks in facilitating technological learning within NIS, partially contradicting the prevailing understanding of the primary importance of NIS based networks for firm learning. Technological learning of firms, and thus the upgrading of the NIS they are embedded in, relies more on international networks than previously assumed. These results call for a more careful design and facilitation of technological learning networks, recognizing global networks as a complementary and necessary component in NIS upgrading. This study contributes to the literature of technological learning within national innovation systems, with a special focus on R&D intensive firms leading the technological upgrading of a country’s NIS.

ABSTRACT. Scholars believe that the newly introduced Industry 5.0 has the potential to move beyond the profit-centered productivity of Industry 4.0 and to promote sustainable development goals such as human-centricity, socio-environmental sustainability, and resilience. However, little has been done to understand how this ill-defined phenomenon may deliver its indented sustainability values despite these speculative promises. To address this knowledge gap, the present study developed a strategy roadmap that explains the mechanism by which Industry 5.0 delivers its intended sustainable development functions. The study first developed and introduced the Industry 5.0 reference model that describes the technical and functional properties of this phenomenon. The study further conducted a content-centric synthesis of the literature and identified the sustainable development functions of Industry 5.0. Next, the interpretive structural modeling (ISM) technique was employed to identify the sequential relationships among the functions and construct the Industry 5.0-enabled model of sustainable development. The ISM involved collecting the opinions of 11 Industry 5.0 experts through expert panel meetings. Results revealed that Industry 5.0 delivers sustainable development values through 16 functions. Circular intelligent products, employee technical assistance, intelligent automation, open sustainable innovation, renewable integration, and supply chain adaptability are examples of the functions identified. These functions are highly interrelated and should be developed in a specific order so that the synergies and complementarities among them would maximize the sustainable development value gains. The roadmap to Industry 5.0-driven sustainability developed in this study is expected to provide a better understanding of ways Industry 5.0 can contribute to sustainable development, explaining how the development of its functions should be managed to maximize their synergies and contribution to the intended sustainability values. The study also highlights important avenues for future research, emphasizing the potential enablers of Industry 5.0 development, such as Government 5.0 or Corporate Governance 5.0.

ABSTRACT. The fourth industrial revolution has turned into a reality during the past few years, and, as a result, the related literature has grown at an unprecedented rate, offering valuable insights into the possible impacts of Industry 4.0 at various analysis levels. Investigating the economic effects of Industry 4.0, especially at the corporate level, has been a cutting-edge research topic across various disciplines. Similarly, several studies have addressed the opportunities that Industry 4.0 might offer to environmental sustainability. On the contrary, the social sustainability implications of Industry 4.0 are less explored in the literature. Unlike the overoptimism around the economic benefits, academia remains quite inconsistent while interpreting the social aspects linked to Industry 4.0. Trying to shed some light on this issue, this research conducts a state-of-the-art systematic review of academic papers and a Machine Learning-based analysis of grey literature on the social implications of Industry 4.0. Contributing to this very relevant and fresh topic, the study summarizes the ongoing trends on social sustainability consequences of Industry 4.0, highlights the existing gaps, and proposes exciting avenues for future research.

ABSTRACT. The complexity of predicting the impact of extraordinary events in the bio-based industrial symbiosis (BBIS) emerges as the main challenge addressed in this study. Complex systems theory, value chain dynamics, and the geographic economy constitute the best available frameworks to shed light on the aim of identifying the relationship between circular economy (CE) and viable value chains in BBIS. The Bazancourt-Pomacle biorefinery was selected as the case study to be analyzed at the mesoscale via System dynamics modelling. A scenario-based approach was adopted to identify the most required conditions to implement circularity in the sugar-beet value chain in BBIS. Three scenarios have been proposed up to 2027, the baseline scenario, the second scenario that considers the non-viable value chain scenario due to climate change effects, and the third showing an outstanding implementation of CE strategies (risk mitigation; production changeover, re-design of products and by-products, capacity buffers, and responsiveness) applied to face COVID19 outbreak is the most circular among the three. Finally, the third scenario also ensures the viability of the sugar beet value chain when facing the COVID19 outbreak by triggering leagility (leanness + agility), resilience, and survivability making the shift from bioethanol to alcohol production possible and therefore maintaining the value chain functionality.


Purpose. The article aims to focus on the debate around the interplay between product innovation and servitization. Two conflicting approaches characterize the debate, disagreeing as to whether product innovation and servitization are complementary or not.

Design/methodology/approach. The authors examine two competing models proposing a direct effect of product innovation on servitization and an indirect effect through digitalization, using the sample of 500 manufacturing firms of a country participating in the European Manufacturing Survey, 2018 edition.

Findings. The results reveal that product innovation has no direct effect on servitization. However, the authors found that digitalization capabilities mediate the effect of product innovation and servitization. The present findings reveal that product innovation has a substantial indirect effect on servitization through digitalization capabilities, supporting the approach proposing the complementarity between product innovation and servitization.

Research limitations/implications. The data used in this paper correspond to a single country. The limited geographical sampling frame may likewise limit the generalizability of the findings. Researchers are encouraged to replicate the analysis with data from other countries, and to further enrich the analysis with complementary path options and resulting performance measures.

Practical implications. When applying a capabilities perspective, the authors find that product innovation capability is not directly related to servitization as capability. The present findings point toward the fact that if companies only have product innovation capability, this does not facilitate servitization. If companies have both product innovation capability and digitalization capability, such a situation facilitates servitization, a decision which often falls within managers’ responsibilities.

Originality/value. Existing studies focus on antecedents and/or outcomes of single issues, either product innovation, servitization or digitalization. Only some offer dual associations (product innovation and servitization, digitalization and servitization), and even less position simultaneously at the intersection of the three pillars. Herein lies the novelty of the present approach and analysis, which explains the extent to which product innovation, digitalization and servitization are related.

ABSTRACT. Despite the recent interest in the Industry 4.0 applications for sustainability, little is known on the processes through which digital transformation and Industry 4.0 technologies enable sustainable innovation in manufacturing. The present study addresses this knowledge gap by developing a strategic roadmap that explains how businesses can leverage Industry 4.0 technologies to introduce sustainability into innovative practices. For this purpose, the study conducts a systematic review of extant literature to identify Industry 4.0 functions for sustainable innovation and applies interpretive structural modeling to devise the promised roadmap. The results offer interesting insights into Industry 4.0 applications for sustainable innovation. The strategic roadmap developed reveals that Industry 4.0 enables sustainable innovation through 11 functions. Industry 4.0 and the underlying digital technologies and principles allow businesses to improve interfunctional collaboration and better integrate with internal and external stakeholders. Industry 4.0 further improves the knowledge base and advanced manufacturing competency and promotes organizational capabilities valuable to sustainable innovation such as green absorptive capacity, sustainable partnership, and sustainable innovation orientation. Through these functions, Industry 4.0 subsequently enhances green process innovation capacity and the ability to develop or reintroduce eco-friendly products economically and competitively. Overall, the roadmap explains the complex precedence relationships among the 11 sustainable innovation functions of Industry 4.0, offering important implications for businesses that seek to leverage Industry 4.0 sustainability implications and manage sustainable development.

ABSTRACT.  Circular economy (CE) and sustainability are interrelated, without being exchangeable. While sustainability tries to reconcile the management of productive resources with their increasing consumption, CE aims to make the productive process more efficient, reducing, reusing and recycling the results of the productive process as much as possible. The aim of this paper is to find out the systemic structure of interactions between sustainability and CE, through the analysis of the existing literature from 2004 to 2021. For this purpose, a computational literature review and content analysis method of CE strategies and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the existing scientific literature has been conducted. It shows that there is a positive impact of the synergy between CE strategies and certain SDGs. All this has led to inclusion in the formulation of policies and strategies, although there is still potential to legislate an even more sustainable framework.
Keywords— circular economy strategies, priority areas, sustainable development goals, content analysis, matrix of relationships

ABSTRACT. Understanding the interactions of Industry 4.0 and sustainability is a cutting-edge research topic. The present study aims to contribute to this research topic by explaining how Industry 4.0 may contribute to energy sustainability. The present study performs a content-centric qualitative review of the extant digitalization literature to identify the primary energy sustainability functions of Industry 4.0. The interpretive structural modeling technique is further used for mapping the interrelationships among various energy sustainability functions identified. The interpretive model developed, and the Matrice d’Impacts Croisés Multiplication Appliquée àun Classement analysis offered exciting insights into the Industry 4.0-energy sustainability interactions. Findings show that Industry 4.0 promotes energy sustainability via a very complex mechanism that involves ten interrelated functions. Contrary to the general opinion, production efficiency offered by the digitalization of the manufacturing industry is not the immediate and most essential energy efficiency outcome of the digital industrial transformation. Industry 4.0 primarily contributes to energy sustainability by enabling the energy industry to reshape its operating landscape and enjoy more advanced, intelligent, and complicated energy production and distribution equipment. The digitalization of the energy demand sector, digitalization of the manufacturing industry, and the introduction of smarter and more sustainable products are among the main opportunities of Industry 4.0 for energy sustainability. Overall, the study and the ISM model of energy sustainability developed explains how Industry 4.0 contributes to energy sustainability via different functions and how each function is placed within the structural model based on its driving and dependence powers.

ABSTRACT. The fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, and the underlying digital transformation, is a cutting-edge research topic across various disciplines. Industry 4.0 literature is growing exponentially, overexpanding the current understanding of the digital industrial revolution through thousands of academic publications. This unprecedented growth calls for a systematic review of the concept, scope, definition, and functionality of Industry 4.0. Such systematic review should address the existing ambiguities and deliver a clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date overview of this phenomenon, including the possible implications for sustainability. Consistently, the present study carried out a systematic literature review of related articles, published online within the Industry 4.0 discipline until November 2020. The systematic literature review identified 745 eligible articles and applied extensive qualitative and quantitative data analysis methodically. The study provides a descriptive assessment of eligible articles’ properties and offers a unified conceptualization of Industry 4.0 and the underlying building blocks. The study explains how the implications of Industry 4.0 for value creation expand beyond the manufacturing industry. The study further describes the sustainability value drivers of the fourth industrial revolution and identifies the conditions on which digital industrial transformation success lays. Overall, findings reveal that Industry 4.0 transformation could address pressing issues of sustainable development goals, particularly concerning the manufacturing-economic development. The study also draws on the findings and offers important theoretical and practical implications, highlights the existing gaps within the literature, and discusses the possible future research directions.

ABSTRACT. The digital transformation under Industry 4.0 is complex and resource-intensive, making a strategic digitalization guideline vital to small and medium-sized enterprises’ success in the Industry 4.0 transition. The present study aims to provide manufacturing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a guideline for digital transformation success under Industry 4.0.

The study first performed a content-centric literature review to identify digital transformation success determinants. The study further implemented interpretive structural modeling to extract the order at which the success determinants should be present to facilitate the SMEs’ digital transformation success optimally. The interpretive model and interpretive logic knowledge base matrix were also used for developing the digital transformation guideline.

Eleven success determinants are vital to SMEs’ digital transformation efforts. For example, results revealed that external support for digitalization is the first step in ensuring digital transformation success among SMEs, while operations technology readiness is the most inaccessible success determinant.

ABSTRACT. The circular economy (CE) is arising as a novel economic system that is restorative by design. In light of its capability to boost sustainable economic development and to cope with environmental challenges, it has recently attracted increasing attention from academics, practitioners, policymakers, and intergovernmental organizations. Despite the wide speculation on this issue, the scientific literature lacks a wide-ranging, systematic, and updated identification and classification of the main drivers and Critical Success Factors of CE initiatives, which appears increasingly necessary to facilitate future scientific work, practical implementations, and policy guidelines. With this aim, this paper develops a systematic literature review by starting with over 400 manuscripts. A final set of 55 selected papers was selected for singling out and classifying drivers and Critical Success Factors in the CE context. The results may provide clear indications for further research, may help business organizations in evaluating CE initiatives, and may guide policy makers in developing and refining CE normative frameworks.

ABSTRACT. Purpose. This study investigates the impact of Industry 4.0 technologies on green innovation performance. In this relationship, the mediating role of green innovation behavior is also studied. Moreover, open innovation is tested as a mediator between Industry 4.0 technologies and green innovation behavior. Design/methodology/approach. A quantitative research method is adopted in which a structured questionnaire was used to collect data from 217 manufacturing firms of Malaysia. After collecting data, the partial least squares-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) technique is applied to analyze data and test the hypothesis of study. Findings. It is found that Industry 4.0 positively impacts open innovation which leads to green innovation behavior. Also, the former lays positive impact on green innovation behavior which leads to improve green innovation performance.



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