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The Next Production Revolution

Implications for Governments and Business

image of The Next Production Revolution

This publication examines the opportunities and challenges, for business and government, associated with technologies bringing about the “next production revolution”. These include a variety of digital technologies (e.g. the Internet of Things and advanced robotics), industrial biotechnology, 3D printing, new materials and nanotechnology. Some of these technologies are already used in production, while others will be available in the near future. All are developing rapidly. As these technologies transform the production and the distribution of goods and services, they will have far-reaching consequences for productivity, skills, income distribution, well-being and the environment. The more that governments and firms understand how production could develop in the near future, the better placed they will be to address the risks and reap the benefits.

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Bioproduction and the bioeconomy

Industrial biotechnology involves the production of goods from renewable biomass instead of finite fossil-based reserves. Much progress has occurred in recent years in the tools and achievements of industrial biotechnology. Industrial biotechnology demonstrates that environmental protection can accompany job creation and economic growth. There are, however, several barriers to its deployment over a wide range of products. Some of these barriers are technical and need further research and development. Others stem from the fact that bioproduction is in direct competition with the fossil oil, gas and petrochemicals industries, which are many decades old, have perfected supply chains, large-scale economies, and receive subsidies. Yet another barrier concerns uncertainty about the sustainability of biomass as a feedstock for future production. Many types of policy are needed to realise the potential of bio-based production, from public support for research, to development of sustainability measures for biomass, to product labelling schemes for consumers, to education and training initiatives for the workforce.

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