December 20, 2013
Europe was the cradle of the manufacturing industry and it has traditionally led important industrial fields. The industrial sector still provides 4/5 of all exports and 80% of private R&D in the European Union are financed by this sector. Nonetheless, the trend during the last few decades clearly shows that unless we adopt measures, the manufacturing sector of the UE as a whole might be seriously endangered in the immediate future. Current production is 10% down as regards pre-crisis levels and 3 million jobs were shed in this sector. If this trend continues, the weakening of the industrial sector will have financial, social, scientific and technological consequences that would seriously affect the EU economy as a whole, with a direct impact on its citizens and even its structure and social stability.
Generally speaking it could be said that, due to various reasons, during recent decades we have not paid enough attention to the manufacturing sector, thus giving ground to our com-petitors. However, now there is a growing understanding among political, business and aca-demic classes of the fact that this sector is a key element both to overcome the current crisis, and to position ourselves on a new increasingly competitive global economy based on knowledge and a new energy paradigm: A new global economy that is already being called the Third Industrial Revolution.
We are on the verge of a profound transformation of our society, driven in the first place by technological changes of an unprecedented scope and size; by an inevitable radical change of the current energy model and by an accelerated globalisation process; interrelationships in real time inevitably entail an acceleration of international processes. The world will change faster and that will require a greater capacity to adapt. To a great extent, the driver behind the technological revolution and globalisation is the digital revolution that, in turn, is driven by the exponential development of technologies related to microprocessors. Scientific development is preparing for new technological advances in biology and new materials at a molecular and atomic level. This will bring unprecedented advances in food, medicine, new materials and new energy sources.
With the adoption by all Member States of the document Europe 2020 the EU has already set the roadmap towards a new economic-industrial model in an increasingly globalised and rapidly changing future. The European Commission established a new objective to increase the share of industry on the GDP from the current 16% to 20% by 2020. Nowadays there is a broad consensus about the fact that it is not possible to create quality employment without a competitive industrial, technologically advanced and economically viable base.
This paper is based on the hypothesis that the future European industrial base should be focused mainly on keeping the leadership in those advanced production processes and on the manufacturing of high-complexity and high-value manufacturing products (HCHVM), since this type of production is the actual driver of technology and innovation.
In a time like this, trying predicting how the productive industrial fabric will be 10 years from now and beyond is a scarcely rigorous task and certainly a very risky one. The best that can be done is to forecast trends considering the foreseeable evolution of development according to certain general lines and, a bit more specifically, to core and enabling technologies. Innovations in the fields of robotics, synthetic intelligence, 3D printing, new materials and nanotechnology will revolutionise the production centres as we know them today and therefore they will profoundly alter the current social organisation of work.
In general terms, the first inference that can be made is that the future productive fabric will be determined by the unstoppable evolution of digitalisation. The digital revolution will enable connectivity, automation, robotization and virtual simulation levels with the potential to change the whole productive fabric. Digital connectivity in real time, with global coverage and virtually unlimited bandwidth, will enable the interconnection of all the elements in the value creation chain regardless of their geographical location. The technologies that are contributing to the extensive introduction of digital revolution into the productive fabric will foster the creation of an integrated space of value creation.
The European Commission acknowledges that the deep technological and economic changes. Therefore, it is absolutely vital for the EU to transform the manufacturing sector into the core element for sustainable development, becoming a source of quality and stable employment and a driver for innovation. The technological revolution we are going through advises to review the very definition of the term "manufacture", expanding the limits of its traditional meaning to another that also embraces biotechnology and the combination of mechanical, electronic, software and biological sectors. The following recommendations sum up the paper
For the EU:
• We recommend widening the concept of manufacturing and considering integrated production spaces as part of the integrated space of value creation.
• The EU and European States are equally advised to support High Complexity, High Value Manufacturing (HCHVM) that will allow European manufacturing businesses to compete on a global level.
• The EU is called to update and enhance the cybernetic infrastructure to support wide digitalisation, connectivity, robotization and automation of the industrial base so as to favour the establishment of global integrated spaces of value creation.
• To promote innovation and incorporation of new technologies to the whole value chain, especially to the productive part, Key Enabling Technologies (KETS) will become vital to the new knowledge‐based intensive industrial fabric. We recommend that the European Commission extends the research activities regarding KETS and complement the supporting measures with a clear focus on industrial manufacturing.
• It is recommended to antedate the creation of the “Added-value manufacturing”-Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC). In the light of the challenges laying ahead and the importance of manufacturing industries in Europe`s growth strategy the EU cannot miss out on the opportunities in terms of education and training, business creation and innovation provided by the KICs.
• To promote and retain the technology of microprocessor manufacturing and devise a strategy to face a potential “beyond Moore” scenario..
• It is recommended to launch a “Bio Foundries” initiative (similar to DARPA`s “living foundries”) allowing to design a system engineering framework for the manufacturing of biological products at industrial level. The goal is to spur innovation by combining biology and engineering that enables on-demand production of new and high-value materials.
• Competitors outside the EU are actively pursuing the models of speeding up new materials research. Therefore, the EU should follow the US example and establish a “Material Genome Initiative” on the European level in order to accelerate advanced materials discovery and deployment.
• The EU should support the development and implementation of new technologies of system engineering in order to maintain leadership in processes such as “Integrated Computational Material Engineering” which enable to combine design, characteristics of new materials, production methods and virtual simulation of results.
• The EU is advised to develop the market of 3D printing technologies and other disruptive technologies. To keep our leading role in most of them it is imperative to establish and regulate a safe and predictable legal environment.
It is recommended that the EU puts forward a long-term global strategy that expands beyond 2020 to provide investor security and that integrates the multiple initiatives launched on the different aspects related to the transition towards a new sustainable energy paradigm.
• With regard to future funding mechanisms we recommend to ensure that Horizon 2020 provides financing channels and fiscal measures encouraging the development of the new industrial fabric required to compete in the Third Industrial Revolution and the ways to pass knowledge onto the market.
• EU legislation must adapt so as to allow new business models required to compete in a global market
For Member States:
• Robotization of the integrated production space is a technological priority. Robots are bound to bridge the gap between digital technologies and actual manufacturing. Thus, it is urgent to boost a European industrial base in this sector. It is recommended that European states consider robotization according to their industrial specialization patterns in order to lay the idiosyncratic foundations for the third industrial revolution.
• It is vital for future growth to combine the knowledge generation base with the in-dustrial base. In this regard it is recommended to implement initiatives similar to the Manufacturing Technology Centres across Europe, easing the incorporation of inno-vative solutions to the productive processes especially of SMEs.
• Key for the new production paradigm will be skilled labour. The member states are encouraged to continue and increase their efforts in advancing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It is further recommended to introduce specific curricula and research activities at higher education institutions to meet the challenges of the Third Industrial Revolution.
• Education and training should be aligned according to the new production model. Competitiveness of the industrial base in the new economy will require educated and trained manpower with the professional skills needed. We therefore recommend a Restructuring of the Education System which, in the end, is the catalyst and the strategy to anticipate the needs of the Third Industrial Revolution.