Dr. David Leal-Ayala (Policy Links (Institute for Manufacturing), University of Cambridge)

2022 IEEE International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Engineering and Technology IICAIET 2022

Speaker 1

Industry 4.0 and Its Adoption in the Asia and Pacific Region

Industry 4.0 refers to the application of developing digital technologies, such as artifical intelligence and machine learning, in manufacturing and industrial production processes. It is enabled by a number of technological advances, including: improved sensors and actuators for interacting with the physical world; enhanced organization, sharing and analysis of data – including more advanced computing power and high-performance computing; and better networking and control of elements and activities across industrial systems. Industry 4.0 offers opportunities for countries in the Asia and Pacific region to rebound from the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and to build economies that are fit for the future. The benefits of the 4IR can help countries to modernize their industrial structure, improve sustainability and resilience, and ensure that the benefits of recovery are evenly distributed among all members of society. Despite recent policy efforts to promote the adoption of Industry 4.0 across industrial sectors in the Asia and Pacific region, firm-level surveys have found that, while a small number of firms have managed to adopt advanced-level technologies (3.0 – integrated production and 4.0 – smart production), most of the firms still perform many tasks manually or using generation 0.0 (analogue production), 1.0 (rigid production) and 2.0 technologies (lean production). To fully reap the benefits of the 4IR, decisive and concerted policy action is needed in areas including workforce development, infrastructure development, innovation promotion and institutional reforms. The selection of an effective policy mix for a country depends on the particular context and the specific position of the country in its industrial digitalisation trajectory. In this talk, Dr David Leal-Ayala will present a high-level overview of Industry 4.0 technologies, opportunities and challenges to adoption in the Asia Pacific region, and key features of international policy programmes aimed at driving innovation and rapid adoption of industrial digitalisation.


Dr David Leal-Ayala is the Deputy Head of Policy Links, responsible for designing, managing, and delivering a variety of industrial innovation policy consulting projects and capacity building programmes for civil servants and policy makers. A manufacturing engineer by training, David provides policy expertise in industrial technology development and commercialisation, assessment and development of policy recommendations and action plans for strengthening national innovation systems, characterisation of technological, manufacturing and industrial systems, and industrial ecology and sustainability.

With wide regional expertise in Europe, the Caribbean, Middle East and South East Asia, David has extensive advisory experience on how to develop effective industrial innovation policy mechanisms for governments and international organisations including UNIDO, UNDP, WEF, IDB, and ADB. He has authored numerous policy reports and news articles in various specialised websites such as UNIDO and WEF and he regularly speaks at high-profile international events such as the Hannover Messe and the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS), among other forums.

David is actively involved with teaching and supervising in the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) programme of the Engineering Department at Cambridge University (“How do companies and governments respond to a changing and complex industrial landscape”). Prior to joining Policy Links, David gained diverse experience running a technology start-up and working in academia and the corporate world:

  • Between 2013 – 2016 he served as Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Reduse, a Cambridge start-up based on his PhD research which aimed to develop the first ‘Unprinter’ to remove print from paper, later acquired by tech company REEP Technologies. In 2015 David was awarded the “MIT Innovators Under 35” prize from MIT Technology Review for this work, while the scientific research underpinning this start-up was published in numerous articles in internationally leading journals, chapters and patents.
  • In 2012 – 2015 David joined the Use Less Group at the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate in Industrial Ecology and Sustainability, where he advised UK government organisations such as Innovate UK and the Energy Systems Catapult, as well as regional governments and industry associations in the UK and abroad.
  • In 2005 – 2007 he worked as an automation engineer with global manufacturers Nemak and Cemex, gaining work experience in Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Poland and Hungary.

David holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (2009 – 2012) where he was supervised by Professor Julian Allwood, a Master’s degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology from the University of Manchester (2007 – 2008), and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics Engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico (2000 – 2005).