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Unleashing the huge potential of key enabling technologies for jobs

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The European Commission has today called for a European effort to boost Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). The global market in KETs, which comprises micro- and nanoelectronics, advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems, is forecast to grow from € 646 Billion to over € 1 Trio by 2015.

Presenting the Communication, Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship underlined: “Most innovative products nowadays, whether it is the smart phone or electric car, incorporate several KETs simultaneously, as single or integrated parts. But KETs can become a real job machine which we so dearly need today. Therefore Europe needs a strategy to develop and industrially deploy KETs. They will determine our economic future and enable the Union to restart growth and job creation by maintaining our global technological leadership.”

This is a jump of over 54%, or more than 8% of the EU's GDP. Rapid growth in jobs is expected, too. In nanotechnology industries alone, the number of jobs in the EU is expected to increase from 160,000 in 2008, to around 400,000 by 2015. The European Commission tabled its strategy today to boost the industrial production of KETs-based products, e.g. innovative products and applications of the future. The strategy aims to keep pace with the EU’s main international competitors, restore growth in Europe and create jobs in industry, at the same time addressing today's burning societal challenges. As a matter of fact, Europe is a global leader in KETs research and development with a global share in patent applications of more than 30%. Despite this, the EU is not translating its dominant R&D base into the production of goods and services needed to stimulate growth and jobs. This is why the Commission calls for a European effort to boost KETS.

KETs provide many jobs, among them many high quality jobs

The deployment of KETs is highly relevant for both industrial competitiveness and for responding to today’s great societal challenges. The transversal and multifaceted role of KETs is mirrored by the number of SMEs active in the field and the number of high quality jobs being created. For example, in nanotechnology, employment estimates show that in 2008 there were 160.000 workers globally. This represents a 25% increase from 2000. The micro- and nanoelectronics industry and its natural downstream ICT industries created more than 700.000 additional jobs during the last decade in Europe, showing a trend towards more service-oriented and highly skilled jobs and rapid recovery after the crisis. Industrial biotechnology has been recognised as the driving KET for the bioeconomy. It is estimated that every euro invested into research and innovation in this area will result in a tenfold return. Furthermore, SMEs are a key driver of innovation and employment in Europe and are expected to account for the majority of future jobs in KETs. In the photonics sector the bulk of the 5,000 European companies are SMEs. In Germany, about 80% of the nanotechnology companies are small or medium sized.

KETs can bring back European innovation leadership

KETs are a key source of innovation: They provide the indispensable technology bricks that enable a wide range of product applications, including those required for developing low carbon energy technologies, improving energy and resource efficiency, and new medical products for ageing population. The KETs defined in 20091 have become a priority on the EU’s agenda. This is further reflected by their key role in Commission proposals on the future EU Research & Innovation programme Horizon 2020 and the European Regional Development Fund. The capacity of Europe to develop and industrially deploy KETs plays crucial role in contributing to sustainable competitiveness and growth.

The internal market offers a fertile background for KETs: Connecting half a billion European citizens, it provides significant commercial opportunities for KETs developers and end users: it is undoubtedly one of the EU’s major strengths. It is the geographical proximity between KETs actors that integrates European value chains and thus provides a competitive advantage. Today the EU represents the largest integrated market in the world that is receptive to innovations, with world leading industries in fields of automotive, chemicals, aeronautics, space, health and energy – all users of KETs.

The Commission proposes an all-encompassing and long-term strategy, which includes all relevant EU instruments and key stakeholders:

  • An integrated approach for KETs research and innovation financing covering the entire value chain in order to translate research into marketable products and economic growth;
  • A strategic approach to KETs in regional innovation financing in order to modernise the industrial base across regions in Europe;
  • Ensuring with the European Investment Bank access to funding for KETs projects.
  • Leveraging KETs policies at all levels: Ensure coordination of EU and national activities so as to achieve synergies and complementarities between those activities andmake the best use of public resources;
  • Ensuring a level playing field in a globally competitive market: Mobilise existing trade instruments to ensure fair competition and a level international playing field.
  • Appropriate governance: Ensure adequate governance structures in order to ensure smooth implementation and the maximum exploitation of synergies.
1 : Commission's Communication COM(2009) 512/3: "Preparing for our future: Developing a common strategy for key enabling technologies in the EU"

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