Unravelling the fourth industrial revolution: a comparative study of a label

Dominique Nijssen*, Roger Bemelmans, Harro van Lente*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is a commonplace to claim we are on the brink of a new technological revolution; many actors share such expectations and persuasive visions. This paper is concerned with the label of the fourth industrial revolution, a term re-coined in 2016 by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. We aim to unravel the fourth industrial revolution by connecting such visions to concrete technological developments. First, we identified influential visionary individuals; second, we distilled the most promising technologies from their visions and, third, we traced these technologies back in research, development and innovation agendas of governments. As a fourth step we monitored the evolution of 33 promising technologies for the period 2000-2019 Based on this analysis, we can conclude that the promising technologies being mentioned in the visions of influential individuals, governments and science differ in priority and have a different meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-305
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Technology, Policy and Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022

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