At the occasion of the plenary session of the European Parliament which took place from 23 to 26 October 2017 and where there was, among others, also a vote on the much debated and far-reaching EU ePrivacy Regulation (MEPs voted in favor of the so-called Lauristin report) a group of industry organizations published a ‘joint reaction paper’ for a more ambitious industrial transformation strategy in the EU.
With the hashtag #Industry4Europe and a title that leaves little room for interpretation (For an ambitious EU industrial strategy: going further) the signatories react to the communication of the European Commission on “Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable Industry : A renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy” as you can read below. An overview with comments.
Getting all elements in place to boost industrial transformation
In a nutshell the signatories want to boost the digital transformation of manufacturing and the industrial markets they represent and urge the EU – and member states – to go further in the initiatives it takes to do so.
Europe’s industry wants to get all the elements of Industry 4.0 ready and aligned across all possible levels with more EU support: from education and R&D to access to finance and a business-friendly environment and governance as the document states. This isn’t the first the signatories emphasize this, yet as mentioned it is a reaction paper and they want to go further than what lies on the table and offer comments you might want to read.
Previously we wrote about EU Industry 4.0 plans at the occasion of the March 23rd Digital Day but the scope of this position paper goes way further and the Digital Day was just one aspects of all initiatives, announcements and statements regarding the overall industrial strategy for the EU and its digital single market strategy, the digitization of industry strategy and more strategies such as the action plan on 5G and the new skills agenda for Europe as obviously digital transformation and the fourth industrial revolution also mean changing skillsets, which we cover a bit more in detail below.
The position paper is again an initiative from the pretty impressive group of industrial organizations that has been actively pushing the EU’s industrial strategy throughout 2017 as you’ll read.
Even if you just look at the sheer number and diversity of industrial organizations that signed the position paper and were active in previous initiatives it’s impressive. Just a few of the many (really many dozens of) signatories to show that diversity: ACEA (the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association), A.I.S.E (International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products), BSEF (the International Bromine Council) and ACEM (The Motorcycle Industry in Europe).
For an ambitious EU industrial strategy: going further – how we got there
The question is of course why and how they want to go further for a more ambitious EU Industrial Strategy. It’s not that there is no EU Industrial Strategy and it’s not the first time that the manufacturing industry in Europe has been working together to push that agenda.
As recent as last Summer there was already a joint declaration for an ambitious EU industrial strategy. Earlier in 2017, in February to be precise, that same impressive number of representatives of industrial sectors adopted a first joint declaration to better tackle the challenges of industrial sectors.
After that several initiatives and gatherings took place to support the future of the EU’s industrial strategy. On September 13th finally, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC said he wanted to help European industries ‘stay’ – or become – global leaders in innovation, digitization and decarbonization.
In other words: making the EU industries leaders in digital industrial transformation, a.k.a. Industry 4.0, Logistics 4.0 and so forth, and in moving towards a more energy-efficient, sustainable and environment-friendly industry, one of the goals of the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and one of the reasons why the use of energy efficient building technologies in the EU is poised to boom. As we wrote before Industry 4.0 and energy efficiency go hand in hand, not just in the scope of buildings of course.
Also on September 13th, the day of the State of the Union Address by Juncker the mentioned “Industrial Policy Strategy: Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable industry” was announced.
The core new elements as you can read in the press release revolved around cybersecurity, the free flow of non-personal data (with the goal of creating the common European data space, compare with the Industrial Data Space initiative), actions on the circular economy (renewable energy and resources), a modernization of the existing Intellectual Property Framework, an initiative to improve the functioning of public procurement, new proposals for clear, competitive and connected mobility, a strategy on sustainable fiance, an extension of the Skills Agenda and more.
It’s that document and the communications surrounding it that have led the signatories of the new position paper for an ambitious EU industrial strategy to react. The how of wanting to go further in an ambitious EU industrial strategy is of course more important than the what and why. And that’s what you can read in the SlideShare version at the bottom of this page of the PDF that is also available on the sites of all signatories.
Focus on skills, training and workforce business models
We’ll let you discover the position of the various associations in that SlideShare but zoom in on a few elements with regards to people, work and skills. The reason: it’s one of the main factors in industrial transformation and transformation overall and also not emphasized enough but at the same time it’s a touchy subject.
With skills being a major challenge in all forms of digital transformation, the position paper, among others, asks more initiatives and actions from the European Commission in this regard. Examples include more emphasis on STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), life-long learning, initiatives by member states to adapt their education programs faster, teach the teachers and train the trainers, and in the context of the changing workforce model of Industry 4.0 a facilitation of the adaptation of the workforce to new business models and working conditions. Exactly the kind of requests that of course industries want to see but that aren’t exactly appreciated by people in many EU countries and have led to political changes, resistance and social protests, not just in the EU but on a global scale, including in the US.
As an example of changing workforce models the position paper explicitly mentions the collaboration between man and machine, one of those many aspects of industrial transformation. The paper gives the example of collaborative robots or cobots where it states that man-machine interaction or coboting is increasingly becoming standard practice.
There is far more in the position paper but it’s clear that between the desire for a more ambitious EU industrial strategy and the reality there are many hurdles and decisions for the future to take, not in the least regarding important matters such as work, education and the human perspective. On one thing pretty much everyone will agree: to increase the share of industry in the European GDP to 20% by 2020, long-term predictability for business certainty and innovation, including legal frameworks that at least can be understood by everyone and investments in R&D are key. The rest is wait and see (and lobby).
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Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: Victor Lauer – all quotes are from the “For an ambitious EU industrial strategy: going further” position paper and can be slightly adapted.