HumanTech: a new ambitious research project for the next five years
Our department has been awarded the “Department of Excellence” grant for the HumanTech – Humans and Technology project, that aims to redesign the relationship between technology and people for a sustainable digital transition of the industrial systems.
Federico Caniato, HumanTech Project Manager
HumanTech – Humans and Technology is the project proposal of Politecnico di Milano ‘s Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of, which has been selected and financed by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR) for the 2023-2027 period as part of the “Departments of Excellence” initiative. The initiative rewards departments that stood out for the quality of their research and funds specific development projects, to support further growth and the achievement of ambitious research goals.
Ours is among the 180 Italian departments funded, across all scientific disciplines, and ranked first within the Industrial and Information Engineering area nationwide.
The HumanTech project aims at redesigning the relationship between technology and people for a sustainable digital transition of the industrial systems. The project is driven by the pressing need to evolve the current technological development model from maximising the economic result towards a more harmonious form that, in addition to the financial -economic implications, also takes into consideration human, social and environmental ones.
Within the industrial systems, the new digital technologies pose formidable challenges, by virtue of their transformative capacity, their diffusion speed, and their pervasiveness, as they interact with these multiple dimensions. In this context, the project aims to propose new development models and processes capable of accelerating the transition towards industrial systems that are sustainable, inclusive, and attentive to the individual and collective well-being.
The project will investigate the complex relationship between people – considered in both their individual and social dimensions – and digital technologies, according to three main research lines:
- Digital technology development models and processes centred on the person. This theme will focus on how technologies are developed, to ensure that they are human centred since the very beginning.
- Resilient and sustainable production, logistics and supply chain processes enabled by digital technologies. This theme will investigate how innovative digital solutions can support the transformation of value chains to become regenerative and human-centred.
- Organisational models and work systems enabled by digital technologies and centred on the person. This theme will focus on the work environment, to develop digital technologies that support and empower human labour, benefitting both individuals and organizations.
The three research themes cover in a complementary and synergistic way the different levels in which the person-technology relationship affects the key features of industrial systems, i.e., the development of technology and its adoption in the transformation processes of organisational systems and in the reconfiguration of work systems.
The overall goal is to conduct ground-breaking research that will result in both scientific, educational and societal impact, assessed according to a number of specific indicators, to achieve ambitious targets in all of them.
The project will fund the development of three innovative infrastructures that will enhance frontier research in the three research areas:
- Behavioural Research in Immersive Environment Lab, for carrying out experimental research on human behaviour in physical, virtual and hybrid environments (e.g. metaverse and immersive virtual reality).
- Cognitive Ergonomics in Cyber Physical Systems Lab, for carrying out ergonomic, behavioural and cognitive studies in highly digitalised production contexts (e.g., cobots, virtual and augmented reality, exoskeletons).
- HumanTech Data Hub, a data repository for the professional and integrated management of the research data, including both the existing resources and those to be generated in the two new laboratories.
The project will also support the recruitment of additional faculty and administrative staff to complement the existing competences with new ones, not only in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, but also in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics. In addition, PhD scholarships and new dedicated courses will also be funded, to develop research skills and competences.
The combination of existing and new competences, as well as the new infrastructures, will allow frontier research to be conducted, in order to achieve breakthrough results, which will be disseminated extensively to students, companies, policymakers and society in general, aiming to foster a systemic change in the way digital technologies are developed and adopted, pursuing individual and collective well-being.