Towards a Multidisciplinary Research Framework for studying the Digital Transformation of Industry

Ezra Dessers, Steven Dhondt, Monique Ramioul, Joris De Schutter, Liliane Pintelon, Wilm Decré, Wouter Van Bockhaven, Wim Coreynen, Michiel De Looze, Geert Van Hootegem


The manufacturing industry is increasingly regarded as an essential ingredient of an ecosystem of production of goods and services. Key enabling technologies are considered to be the motors behind the ongoing digital transformation of industry. Given that there are still a number of open questions that need to be addressed in order to develop successful strategies for further implementation of these technologies, and to understand how workplace innovation plays a role in the digital transformation of industry, this paper seeks to design a comprehensive research approach and explains how this approach is applied in the PARADIGMS 4.0 research project on the digital transformation of industry in the region of Flanders, Belgium. Based on the identification of current knowledge gaps, research questions are defined on the topics of technology and work organisation, skills and participation, organisational and regional strategies, and labour market impact. A multi-level, multi-disciplinary, multi-method and multi-stakeholder research design was developed in order to study these topics in an integrated way. While this innovative comprehensiveness is seen as a major strength, it is acknowledged that the research design comes with certain risks that need to be tackled.

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