Up-Skill Project

Human-Machine Augmentation

Automation projects have often failed due to the omission of critical human skills needed for business success. Full automation is perhaps only appropriate where the objectives centre around production efficiency, accessibility and cost reduction. In contexts where innovation, flexibility and the application of craft and artisanal skills to create added value are either beyond the capability of automation or these elements have value in the eyes of customers, then full automation is inappropriate. In such contexts, leveraging effective operations between human workers and technology becomes the key managerial and research concern.

The focus of the Up-Skill project is to develop a better understanding of how businesses, particularly in industrial and manufacturing environments, can lever value from human and machine integration. Businesses are already exploring how they can build business benefit from newly added capabilities such as big data, access to real time process data, the Internet of Things, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, amongst others. The next step will be integrating those technologies with human capabilities

Automative Software Technology process system

Up-Skill will improve the understanding of how businesses can lever value from human and machine integration through detailed comparative case studies.


Ethnographic Research

The project will identify how the potential for automation and human input is being played out in a range of industrial, competitive and supply chain settings by creating detailed comparative case studies.

The ethnographic approach will enable the creation of a unique and detailed understanding of the ways in which artisanal skills and automation interact and are managed in each of the case studies. Precise ethnographic methodological design will be implemented to build a detailed understanding of the products made, the technologies used to produce them, and the specific human skills deployed to produce them. The approach will also take specific account of the firm strategy and managerial competencies that are delivering business sustainability and growth.

The ethnographic design will highlight:

  1. The specific nature of the production technologies in use and the products being produced.
  2. The specifics of the supporting infrastructure and inputs relating to production as it is presently enacted.
  3. The skills required at all points of the production process and how they are distributed and combined across different roles. This includes technology based as well as social skills such as work planning, innovation, problem solving.
  4. The managerial competencies that are needed to bring both the material and skills elements together.

Expected Impacts

Up-Skill will have wide-reaching impacts that directly affects the evolution of Industry 5.0 and its implications for future work, and in turn European and worldwide industries and policy. The project will develop a quantified, predictive approach to the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles within the manufacturing industry tailored to particular companies and local contexts. This will be done through the:

  • Identification of skills that existing workers will need to survive in the emerging digitalised workplace and the creation of training courses and manuals for hardware and software up-skilling.
  • Development of the Up-Skill Platform, a data repository and Decision Support System (DSS) that will store the compiled research data and convert it into information that can be utilised by businesses for technological integration and decision making.
  • Cost savings in primary manufacturing through the efficient implementation of human-machine augmentation.
  • Improved quality of output and productivity by addressing production methods, development cycles of new products and the reproducibility of products in conjunction with the artisan skill needed for certain specifications.
  • Waste reduction by enabling higher levels of reproducibility, defining specification tolerances and the use of software to make more efficient use of components that may have otherwise been unutilised.
  • Longevity of demand for skilled labour and craftmanship through enabling better quantification of the added value provided by skilled workers via a reference framework which can be used to understand and express employee value across all levels of the business.
Millions €

Project Objectives

Automation does not simply, by virtue of its inherent nature, ‘threaten’ jobs. Nor do jobs carry inherent irreducible characteristics that render them automatable. Different attempts at classifying ‘at risk’ occupations have, unsurprisingly, come to wildly different conclusions. Up-Skill´s research will focus on the strategic, social, economic and business contexts in which it does or does not make business sense to automate skilled, artisanal and craft roles.

Workers are not passive recipients of technology change; they also react to it. The history of technology change is replete with job roles that have proven unexpectedly resistant to elimination by automating technology. Recent experiences of digital technology and AI roll-outs make it clear that new human roles constantly emerge to augment technology that rarely works quite as well anticipated.

We lack understanding of precisely what managers and organisations do to better lever benefits from interacting human and technology resource and the importance of distributed decision making for taking best advantage of digital technology.

Before the introduction of automation systems in a skilled crafts environment, both the organisation and the managers require a certain level of skill to both communicate and implement the new approach. Therefore, there is a need to carefully audit all the requisites at organisational and managerial level for the specific level of automation that will be implemented.

This will provide the specific guidelines that can be used in the introduction of Industry 5.0 to the European manufacturing sector.

This will allow us to verify our claims and, potentially, quantify the expected benefits for a better value proposition and establish a willingness to pay for the pathways.

This will enable the Up-Skill project´s ideas to get to as many European companies as possible. It is relevant to keep as many of the skilled Europeans working as possible for the improvement of their lives, in accordance with SDG#8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.

The successful future of Industry 5.0 relies on the training of both workers and management to ensure that the benefits are well extracted. This is aimed at ensuring there is a place for skilled crafts within manufacturing whilst maintaining production competences such as high throughput, quality and product consistency.

Project workpackages

Project Start

Enabling technology assessment

Leader: TWI
Month: M4


Data collection (use cases)

Leader: Anglia Ruskin University
Month: M21


Use case development: skills vs quantified products

Leader: Lancaster University
Month: M21


Training needs assessment

Leader: Mälardalen Industrial Technology Center
Month: M21


Up-skill platform

Leader: Iris
Month: M21


Exploitation, dissemination & communication

Leader: KNEIA
Month: M21


Project management

Leader: Mälardalen University
Month: M21