Abstract

Conceptualising Entrepreneur in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is a definition coined by the World Economic Forum and, in particular, by its founder and president Klaus Schwab. Often used as a synonymous of digital revolution and Industry 4.0, unlike the latter two concepts, the fourth industrial revolution includes innovations in fields other than the digital one and it analyses the phenomenon using a historical perspective. In fact, the current technological revolution could be considered as the last stage of a long-term phenomenon that began in Great Britain at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both academic literature and public opinion have been mainly interested in the most fascinating inventions (big data, internet of things, driverless cars ...) and the possible effects of the fourth industrial revolution on the job market. In the latter case, the attention is focused on unemployment or on the replacement of workers by robots and artificial intelligence. But what role does the entrepreneur of the fourth industrial revolution have and will have? What will be the dominant form of entrepreneur? Using an explicitly Shumpeterian approach, the paper starts from the theoretical assumption that innovative entrepreneurs are the basis of the fourth industrial revolution, as well as of any technological revolution. The paper considers the main interpretations relating to the role of the entrepreneur in 4IR: from the epic of the "pop star" innovators (Elon Musk) to the myth of the network of micro-entrepreneurs prosumers (“makers”). In addition to an extensive critical review of the literature, the paper uses the reports, articles and books written by and on 4IR entrepreneurs as its primary sources. The main objective of the paper is to better identify the role of the entrepreneur in the fourth industrial revolution, using a long-term perspective that avoids the short-termism of the mainstream literature.