Industry 4.0 is often associated with the manufacturing industry. However, digitalization, networking, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are also of considerable importance for the process industry, which is the third largest and most research-intensive industrial sector  in Germany . Although the process industry - i.e. the producing companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, life sciences and food sectors - can rely on the results of the manufacturing industry for digitalization, it also has many more specific challenges. These lie in the long and costly product and process developments, the continuous optimization and expansion of existing plants with product changes, and finally the fact that no clearly defined components are produced, but fluids and solids with fluctuating properties and in some cases a high hazard potential.
Digitalisation is opening up new technical opportunities to meet the new challenges as well as new business models. On the one hand, the digitalization of the process industry supports the safe and efficient production of internationally competitive products. On the other hand, new tools, methods and possibilities of networking and intelligent automation enable equipment and software suppliers to export production technology know-how in the form of measurement and control technology worldwide. Both contribute to an enormous regional competitive advantage.
In order to be able to survive successfully in a changed environment, the process industry will have to use the potential of digital technologies in the future. Digitalisation makes it possible to interlink previously separate areas in the development, production and delivery processes. Complex processes can thus be handled, controlled and optimized more safely and efficiently in the future, so that different products can be adapted to customer requirements and brought to market more rapidly.
All this requires building new skills, investing in talent and managing change that engages the entire organization  The process industry now faces similar changes to those in the metal and electrical industries, but in a different mode over a long period of time. This requires different design approaches and requires a strong need for research and the validation of results.  Digitisation cannot be achieved on its own. It must be created together with all those involved, whereby the value chains of the supply chain and the asset life cycle are to be more closely interconnected (see Figure 1). In order to ensure that German companies in the process industry remain at the forefront of the international market in the future, companies must digitalize their processes and business procedures and develop innovative new methods, equipment, plants, sensors and automation technology as well as data concepts in collaboration with science.
For this purpose, the establishment of a research and development programme of the BMWi would be helpful. The programme should aim at the infrastructural development and empowerment of partners, especially the many SMEs. Research programmes also offer a pre-competitive "protective space" for the legally secure advancement of standards that is not attackable under cartel law. Research and development activities already launched must be accounted for or integrated in the research programme.