Despite the ongoing effects of the global economic crisis, European Union Member States have made good progress towards strengthening the sustainability and competitiveness of their industrial sectors. That said, there is still work to be done. And in an effort to facilitate reform and policy learning, the European Commission has released a new Industrial Performance Scoreboard.
Despite the ongoing effects of the global economic crisis, European Union Member States have made good progress towards strengthening the sustainability and competitiveness of their industrial sectors. They have implemented reforms to promote growth and jobs, accelerating the shift towards a knowledge-based economy.
That said, there is still work to be done. And in an effort to facilitate reform and policy learning, the European Commission has released a new Industrial Performance Scoreboard. The Scoreboard looks at industrial performance in five key areas – manufacturing productivity, export performance, innovation and sustainability, the business environment and infrastructure, and finance and investment.
Based on key industrial indicators, countries are classified in three main groups. First, the consistent performers, whose industries are dominated by technologically advanced firms with highly-skilled workers. Second, the uneven performers, countries that show strong performance in some areas but that must make up ground in some others. And finally, the ‘catching-up’ group, whose competitiveness is affected by weak innovation capacity and knowledge transfer.
The ‘consistent performers’ are Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France. Their research and innovation systems perform well over a number of indicators. Nevertheless, all economies in this group still have room for improvement.
For example, with respect to Germany, the crisis has harmed its economy less than initially expected. This is largely due to the competitiveness of German industry, its export orientation, a resilient labour market, the absence of a credit crunch and a favourable business environment. Germany is one of the innovation leaders in the EU and the framework conditions favour research and innovation. However, Germany faces important challenges in avoiding a systematic skills shortage and ensuring an adequate implementation of its new energy strategy.
The ‘uneven performers’ comprises of Estonia, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg. These countries tend to show uneven performance, good against some criteria, but below the average against others. Most countries in this group also have in common weaker research and innovation systems and some severe constraints related to the business environment, although in each country there are examples of innovative, internationally successful companies or even clusters.
For example, in the case of Italy, the economic crisis has had a seriously negative effect on its industry. There has been relatively more progress on the improvement of the business environment and on the opening of services sectors to competition. However, improving productivity will require implementing the backlog of structural reforms. In this respect, key challenges remain to promote innovation and access to finance, especially for SMEs.
The ‘catching-up’ group consists of Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania. Although they have substantial strengths in several areas and there are clear signs of the catching-up process, each economy in this group has considerable room for improvement.
In Poland's case, due to strong internal demand and good export performance, Polish companies have fared well through the crisis. Furthermore, Poland has avoided a credit crunch and access to finance is not a major concern. However, without further structural reforms, the current growth model might not be sustainable. The companies' weak innovation needs to be tackled through stronger strategic linkages between industrial, education and innovation policies. As for the business environment, challenges remain in the high administrative compliance costs, slow legislative processes and unstable legislation. In addition, in spite of gradual modernisation, underdeveloped transport infrastructure continues to be a serious obstacle for industry’s growth.
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