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Lars Walter och Ulrika Hedh Snis

Researchers focusing on human-machine interaction: Lars Walter and Ulrika Lundh Snis at University West. Photo: Andreas Borg

“Digitization is one of several major structural transformations under way in society. The new technology presents changes and challenges in several areas — especially in industry,” said Lars Walter, professor of Work-Integrated Learning at University West.

“Continued professional development will be a key issue for the next 10 years. Bringing in young, newly educated people is not sufficient. New roles and work methods await everyone working in the manufacturing industry. But that doesn’t necessarily mean enormous change for everyone.”

Many industrial companies will make major investments in new technologies. Walter points out that investing in skills development and understanding the complexities of technological transformation are equally important.

“The staff needs to participate in the process from the start“

“Industry leaders generally do not seem very worried about new technology, but they are giving more thought to how employees will adjust to it. Before companies invest in new robotic manufacturing, for example, management needs to see this through the employees’ eyes. How does the new technology affect the work of the operator, the middle manager, the finance manager and others? What new skills do they need?

It usually does not work to first bring in the technology and then deal with training. For optimal results, the staff needs to participate in the process from the start. In this way, costly mistakes can be avoided, and the transformation will be smoother and faster.”

Engineers and social scientists do research together

Walter and his research colleagues at University West are taking an in-depth look at how industry can integrate employees into technological transformation in a good way. Primus is the university’s relatively new research environment where interdisciplinary research on technology and learning is conducted. Engineers and social scientists research and learn along with industrial enterprises in a variety of industry-relevant projects.

“A comprehensive approach is important. Technology and learning are two perspectives that need to be combined. We do not use a tunnel vision model but tie together high-tech knowledge with knowledge of human behaviour,” says Walter.

How to integrate artificial and human intelligence in a smart way?

One of several research projects is Artificial and Human Intelligence Through Learning (A-HIL) led by Professor Ulrika Lundh Snis. In this project, the researchers collaborate with Siemens Energy and GKN Aerospace.

“Our work involves understanding how artificial and human intelligence can be cleverly integrated into the digitization process of companies. Without that knowledge, there is a risk that faith in technology will either become too great or be eroded. Employees’ professional knowledge will be equally important in the future, even if professional roles look different. For the technological transformation to succeed, employees need to participate in the design of the new production systems. Their knowledge and experiences need to be integrated into the new digital tools.”

In the A-HIL project, researchers identify new working models and critical factors for organising and learning in this technological transformation.

“It's a huge learning process for all the functions in the company. Training needs to be done in new ways, managers and management have a new basis for making decisions and the organisation is affected.”

More on A-HIL 


  •  Learning and technology are uniquely combined in the university’s Primus research environment.
  •  Researchers and companies are developing new knowledge together to make Swedish industry more competitive.
  •  Three areas of focus: Production Processes, Production Systems and Industrial Work-Integrated Learning.
  •   Primus is financially supported by the Knowledge Foundation.
  •   University West is Sweden’s leading university in the field of Work-Integrated Learning (WIL).

CONTACT: Lars Walter, Professor in Work-Integrated Learning