The Future of Manufacturing Futures

On 16th July, IfM’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSTI), together with the ECS Policy Links Unit and the Babbage International Policy Forum, hosted a roundtable event for manufacturing foresight practitioners and policy analysts from leading multilateral organisations and international bodies.


Participants included representatives from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the World Economic Forum (WEF), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as the UK government.


The event was designed as a unique opportunity for experts from the different organisations to share insights, perspectives and analyses about the future of production; and reflect on the implications for industrial strategies and national policies for manufacturing and innovation.


In particular, the roundtable event offered participants the opportunity to compare and contrast their different initiatives and findings, and share effective practices and lessons learned from their respective initiatives, as well as to explore common methodological challenges related to manufacturing foresight and policy analysis.


Themes addressed at the roundtable included:

  • The impact of emerging technologies on global value chains and production systems;
  • The acceleration of technological innovation for inclusive globalization, sustained competitive advantage, and environmental sustainability;
  • The role of institutions for technology generation, diffusion and deployment; and
  • Challenges for small and medium enterprises to stay relevant in future value chains.


CSTI and Policy Links were ideally placed to facilitate discussion: Having worked recently with the international organisations involved and realising that were common interests, it was apparent that there was an opportunity to bring together a community of practitioners and provide an opportunity to share ideas and experiences.


The event was also supported by the Babbage International Policy Forum, with former Head of the IfM, Professor Sir Mike Gregory, chairing the opening session and hosting a dinner at Madingley Hall, which provided an ideal location for this type of international expert roundtable meeting.


CSTI Director, Dr Eoin O’Sullivan, said: “The roundtable offered a unique forum for international experts to engage with colleagues with similar interests in methodologies for analysing the future of manufacturing. The global organisations represented have all conducted initiatives around these topics, but have approached the issues from different perspectives, in the context of organisations with quite different missions and stakeholders. Bringing these leading policymakers together to share contrasting but complementary experiences stimulated valuable discussions and led to some fascinating insights.


Head of Policy Links, Dr Carlos López-Gómez said: “We welcome the enthusiasm of these major international organisations to participate in this event and their willingness to engage in such open discussions here in Cambridge. It is crucial that the community of practitioners continues to develop new analytical approaches and the evidence base available to support policy making. We are now working to take forward the ideas for collaboration that emerged from the workshop and to further develop this global ‘manufacturing futures’ community.”


The meeting concluded with agreement to continue to reconvene and build this community of interest. Topics identified for future discussions included: measuring national readiness (for adopting and exploiting key emerging production technologies), identifying the skills and workforce requirements for the next production revolution, identifying barriers to the diffusion of new technologies.

Date published

30 July 2018

For further information please contact:

Dr Eoin O'Sullivan

T: +44 (0) 1223 764737


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