In the past 40 years, Asia has become one of the world’s most important regions for industrial manufacturing. This development started with comparatively simple manufacturing processes. The combination of know-how, speed and a high degree of adaptability is the outstanding characteristic of the successful industries in Asia. But, how can this development path continue to be followed in order to further grow the economy and achieve a higher standard of living for everyone?

The key trend is Industry 4.0. It will change how we work: robots that cooperate with people will be able to learn and reproduce simple process steps simply by watching. Information will be available and processed in real time along the value chain. Additive manufacturing implemented in a wide kind of sectors to enhance industrial processes in quality and time.

It is obvious that Industry 4.0 is not only a revolution for the machine, but will also significantly change job profiles and the skills required. New players and new business models will emerge, while others will most probably disappear. This fundamental and necessary change cannot be driven by the companies alone. Universities must play an important role at the hour to introduce new skills related with Industry 4.0.

Likewise, the Ministry of Education Malaysia has proposed major reforms to Malaysia’s higher education system in order to accelerate the positive upward trajectory of the system. Thus, it was launched the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 [1] built on five aspirations: access, quality, equity, unity, and efficiency.

Different shifts are defined. The first one is to solve the mismatch in the supply and demand of graduates, with employers reporting that graduates lack the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes. Due that the Ministry proposes enhancing the student learning experience by expanding industry collaboration in the design and delivery of programmes. In the same way other shift is to foster the Quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates provided by Universities. To achieve that, the Ministry will intensify industry involvement enabling it to lead curriculum design and delivery through new partnership models.

Other objectives are related to foster the lifelong learning in supporting the professional development of all Malaysians, facilitate the development of innovation ecosystems in selected strategic areas that are critical to the economic growth, and expand their international recognition.

By the other hand, the timber industry, that includes the woodworking and furniture sectors, is one of the major contributors to the Malaysian economy, estimated in nearly €4.0bn of exports and about 300,000 workers. In particular, the furniture sector has quadrupled its export values since 1995. In fact, in 2017 Malaysia was ranked as the 9th World country in furniture exports and 17th in production, regarding the World Furniture Outlook 2018 published by Csil. Thus, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities in collaboration with the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) launched the National Timber Industry Policy 2009-2020 (NTIP) [2].

The NTIP established the innovation and technology, and the human capital development, among others, as main challenges of the industry. It is estimated that at least 9.810 workers will need to be trained annually, 3.450 only in the furniture sector and 3.600 in the panel production The NTIP pointed that there is a need to strengthen the competence and knowledge to embrace cutting edge technologies and higher value-added manufacturing activities and highlights in the page 86 that “a number of universities and polytechnics including UPM, UiTM, USM and UMS provide management level training for the timber industry. The graduates from these institutions, however, either do not seek employment in the timber industry or do not have the skills required by the timber industry. Hence, there is a need for these institutions to review their training syllabus to match the requirements of the industry.”, being three of these universities parters of the MAKING4.0 project.

Similarly, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in its Mega Science 3.0 report dedicated to the furniture industry sector [3], highlights that “changes in eduction and training are required to equip the future workforce with new skills required in the future”.

Moreover, the white paper “Is Malaysia ready for industry4.0?” [4] points that human resources are one of the most important challenges in the manufacturing sector for upgrade it, and it is expected that during the first quarter of 2018 the Ministry of International Trade and Industry will present the blueprint for the National Industry 4.0 policy framework where it is expected to have a focus on the training aspects and update workers knowledge.

Following all these recommendations, MAKING 4.0 will establish an European-Malaysian collaborative consortium with the objective to develop an innovative Master Degree for engineers of furniture smart factories that will modernize High Education degrees, by focusing on the ICTs skill needs to increase competitiveness of the wood and furniture industry of Malaysia.

Thereby, it is obvious that the present project fits the regional and national priority of the Erasmus+ call CBHE for the Region of Asia in the kind of curriculum development projects in manufacturing and processing, and also other priorities such as engineering and engineering trades and forestry. The Ministry of Higher Education has shown its support to MAKING4.0 project through an intent letter as is in line with the current national strategy on HE (see annex).

EU has made an important effort to update and modernize its manufacturing industry towards an intelligent industry, funding different projects in the field of education and industry. The European partners involved in MAKING4.0 project are also involved in other EU initiatives related with the development of training materials in the areas of the woodworking and furniture industry sector and also in technologies of the Industry4.0, such as IMFUTURE, In4Wood, Erasmus3D+ and 3D+VET .