The Future of Europe Depends on Smart Investment in Contemporary Curricula and Workplace Training Innovation

May 21, 2014 by EDEN Secretariat   Comments (0)

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Interview with Fabrizio Cardinali by Andras Szucs


The voice of the industry is often on middle volume in various education systems when it comes to designing strategies. With the latest wave of reforms and readjusted goals thanks to the economic crisis, this voice is becoming louder and louder in various countries. Policy makers and institutional stakeholders listen carefully in order to keep up with the high-speed train of business developments. One of the world's leading consultants in learning technologies, solutions and standards, former Chair of ELIG, the European Learning Industry Group, Fabrizio Cardinali has often played the role of the facilitator between the industry and educational policy-makers. Dr Andras Szucs, Secretary General of EDEN invited him for a deep conversation where the two take us on a journey in time and paint a manifold perspective of present and future demand towards learning economies where 3D printing, crowdfunding and smart design play a key role.



A. Sz.: Fabrizio, you have been in ICT and learning in the forefront of the developments, often in unorthodox settings, with progressive ideas and actions. There has been a jungle of forecast studies, more or less evidence-based analyses about the modernisation of learning, the use of information technologies. Warnings and visions about the necessity of structural changes on systemic level seem to have become powerless mantras, lost their freshness and mobilising momentum. What comment would you add to this challenging statement?


F.C.: The impact of disruptive technologies on mankind usually takes place in delay with the generation of new social and human interaction models and that of new business and industry opportunities and challenges happening in consequence. That’s why every technological revolution is better understood once it has passed over and settled down.

If you map the adoption of innovative transport, energy and communication technologies since year 1 AC, on a 24 hour innovation clock, you realise that the invention of the steam engine, which happened  more or less between 1775 and 1781 A.C., would fall around 9.15 PM.... Since then more than 200 years have passed but on a 24 hour clock perspective that is less than 3 hours to midnight.

It usually takes a long time to mankind to fully master the  benefits of disruptive technologies and transfer  the  impact they may  have on the social, human and economy habits of people. As Ian Morris well visualises in his social development measuring graph, social activities, as communication and teaching,  had been quite boring and static until the steam engine invention. That first industrial revolution changed the way we gathered and worked, organised and communicated to masses so deeply and, relatively in a slow time, that its effects are still deeply rooted in the way the educational establishment has organised curricula and the way to teach them.
Since then a second and third industrial revolution have given us huge opportunities to rethink the way we learn and teach and perhaps only the conquering of the Moon, more or less happening 15 minutes to Midnight, may be considered a beacon of how a society capable to align policy, industry and academia to a shared goal may make things happen, faster and more effectively than it normally takes.

Today the Industry is going through what many call its 4th industrial revolution with new technologies coming into place to disrupt the way we produce, distribute and sell goods in contemporary markets. After changing the service and content industry in the last decade, the web is now passing from the ‘Internet of Bits’ to the ‘Internet of Things’. New disruptive technologies such as 3d Printing, Advanced Robotics and Smart Machine all possibly working in future Cyber Physical Industrial workplaces are appearing that will revolutionize the way we produce, distribute and purchase goods in contemporary markets. In a nutshell, it is now clear that another ‘webification’ wave is about to hit the industry. This time it will address the roots of goods fabrication and distribution, an economical space potentially with a much higher likely impact than that reported for the digitization of the content and service industry.
With manufacturing still retaining a 15.1% ( in 2012) of Europe’s GDP share, aligned with the world average of 17%,  despite the massive off-shoring and de-industrialization forces influencing EU economies in the recent past, it is clearly the last battle our knowledge “warriors” have to face before losing the war.

Europe’s industrial and educational establishments as well as its leaders and policy-makers must be ready for helping its Youth to compete in such contest.


A.Sz.:  The economic crisis has proven to be a barrier rather than an opportunity for development. The educational sector is suffering from lack of resources, restrictive scenarios, delayed cancelled or half-implemented reforms. Few exceptions and positive examples of course can be found. What do you think about the European developments vs. the US/CND/AU progress in the field?


F.C.: After the successes of World War II, the US Economy was lagging behind. Industry, Academia and Government were relaxing, thinking that the Soviet Union couldn’t recover pace. When suddenly a bright light flew over the American sky: the Sputnik was launched, and suddenly the world war winning American aerospace industry was at threat... As President Kennedy stated on that sunny day of 1963 at the Rice Stadium in Houston:

We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard! ….and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is over…

After that call to action, in less than a decade, the American scientific, political and industrial stakeholders joined forces to win what presumably has been the fastest learning recovery of all.

In 2012 President Obama announced a new plan to make the United States become the best place in the world to manufacture and rebuild lost jobs and attract back foreign direct investment by 2020. The main identified  challenges being to expand access to global markets to enable manufacturers to reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside borders and to innovate the way manufacturing skills are trained and applied by students.

In particular to give US manufacturers access to the workforce that the 21st-century economy demands, the US Government launched a “National Network for Manufacturing Innovation”, with the challenge to build a network of up to fifteen Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation around the country, serving as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence. This National Network's aim is to help to make US manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States. The President’s budget was positioned at a $1 billion investment to create such  Network and a pilot institute was funded from $45 million of existing resources from the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce and the National Science Foundation, and was selected via a competitive application process.

Today these institutes are opening up, the engineering curriculum has been re-designed and first ventures are springing out offering high-end industrial 3D printing of airplane turbines or human tissues or web-based marketplaces  offering  crowdsourced fashion labs and artefacts...

If Europe, and its national and central policy-makers will not be able to get on and ride the same digital disruption wave that is about to hit industrial fabrication, the effect of this wave on labour reduction will cause social unrest and a quest for teaching and training recovery for the years to come… Only by training our Youth to the new level of entrepreneurship offered by the Internet of Things, smart machines and 3D printing may we survive and compete or, as per any Darwinian specialization, we will need to give up for those who are capable to.

In a nutshell, today Europe needs a Sputnik effect and shared call to action for its Industrial, Academic and Policy leaders to avoid losing what might be our collective final chance to survive.


A. Sz.: Looking back to the last five or ten years, what were, in your view, the most unexpected developments? What unexpected changes and achievements in the ICT enhanced learning / learning innovation would you anticipate to happen in the next three to five years?


F.C.: Today we are at the cornerstone of what presumably is the biggest evolution ever in technological terms for what refers to its possible impact on human social and communication habits and the limited time it will take to happen. Consequently, the need of advanced workplace learning and training innovation demands new skills and competences in due time and to be available where needed and when needed.

If we count single “intelligent” items, by 2020 1 trillion of „things” will be connected to the Internet and new business models enabled by the coupling of 3D printing with crowdsourcing, such as “produce on demand” or “make to individual”, will have created more new ventures than ever  (source: Gartner Research). Competition will not be only amongst humans. By 2017, 10% of the computers will be learning rather than processing. The majority of Knowledge Workers' career paths will be disrupted by smart machines. Both in positive and negative terms. If we don’t train our youth to be smarter than the computers they create, we might end up playing, trying to win the wrong game. The next “Big Thing” is not investing in “physical” emerging markets but in virtual cyber-manufacturing scenarios enabling policy makers to bring back wealth and production to western Economies, yet rethinking the labour economy and workplace learning capability of its ecosystem.


Even in full crisis (2010-2012), the U.S. manufacturing sector has added more than 400,000 jobs, the first period of sustained job growth since the 1990s. Yet today approximately 600.000 manufacturing jobs remain vacant in the US, not finding the right skills and competences on the market. According to a recently published Forbes study in the US alone we have approximately a 150 ML jobs capacity of which 15% are changed every year into newly defined ones. According to the same research in the same next 15 years, 60 ML jobs will be taken by smart machines if  humans are not smart enough to develop new emerging businesses requiring newer competences and skills. For every dollar spent in manufacturing innovation another 1.48 is added to the economy. This is the highest “real” multiplier effect you may find out there, except some risk capital investment in equity…but that is a different story.

With its heritage of creativity and capability in fabrication in key markets such as high-end fashion 6 luxury goods, artcraft and even engineering  mindsets, Europe still has a chance to compete. It must invest in Entrepreneurship skills and have policy makers and regulators backing up its efforts of creating new innovative start-ups and businesses to embrace new production models, whilst retaining its historical quality and precision.


A. Sz.: If you could invest 100k – 1M – 10M EURs into any aspect of education, what would that investment target?


F. C.: I would invest in designing a new smart manufacturing curricula and workplace training innovation.

That is not only wishful thinking but actually what I have done given that after many years investing in the “technology enhanced learning” solution side of the spectrum, opening and launching many new companies in EU, US and APAC (e.g. Giunti Labs, eXact learning, Harvestroad Hive) I have now engaged in sedApta™ a new European industrial group investing in the creation of a new international offering in smart manufacturing and supply chain management, IT and incubating new start-ups such as Skillaware™: a company developing an innovative, IP patented,  workplace-based performance support and training solution for the improvement and training of new IT processes and tools. Skillaware is opening in July and it will target the US and APAC manufacturing IT training markets as main starting reference markets… I hope Europe will recover and become one of our main user groups soon.


The EDEN Annual Conference will take place between 10-13 June in Zagreb, Croatia. Register now and meet Fabrizio Cardinali at the #EDEN14 Annual Conference in Zagreb! Read more interviews here.


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