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Industrial competitiveness

Key challenges

Challenges © Matt Trommer - Istockphoto

EU industry has been seriously affected by the recent economic crisis, revealing a number of structural weaknesses. Nonetheless, manufacturing industry is still fundamental for the competitiveness of the EU economy and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Industrial production has led the recovery from the economic crisis. Manufacturing will continue to be a major generator of innovation and productivity and a key driver of demand in the rest of the economy. It will become even more highly skilled and be increasingly capital- and technology-intensive. Highly innovative SMEs and innovation clusters will become increasingly important to the innovation and production process.


As a result of advancing globalisation EU industry will become even more integrated into international value chains as global sourcing becomes more complex. Export markets, particularly the fast-growing economies of emerging Asia and the BRICs, will remain vital for EU businesses. Whilst EU export growth will remain dynamic, there will inevitably be a shift in the weight of world manufacturing production towards these fast growing markets.

Technological changes

A variety of radical new developments are emerging that will lead to the formation of new goods, services, and business models that will reshape EU industry. Industry will also be indispensable for finding solutions to the major societal challenges facing the EU and the world.

Whilst EU industry is currently in a strong position to benefit from these new developments, a number of important threats to its position also exist.

Climate and energy

Industry needs also to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and to grasp the opportunities of new low- energy and resource saving processes and products. The ability to adapt to changes will be pivotal for the competitiveness of the European manufacturing and for achieving the EU's overall growth and job objectives. Industrial policy may have significant impact on the developments in this area and it must both support and stimulate the continuous process of adjustment to changing conditions and restructuring that is essential to remaining globally competitive.

Competitiveness analysis

To assess developments in key industrial sectors and identify upcoming challenges, DG Enterprise and Industry systematically analyses the competitiveness of the main industrial sectors. It pays special attention to the following issues:

  • regulatory framework
  • position of sectors in the international trade
  • role of research, development and innovation, knowledge and skills, environmental issues, competition etc.

Some results of this analysis were presented in the background document to the industrial policy communication - Sectoral stocktaking paper pdf - 594 KB [594 KB] .

In parallel, to collect more detailed information concerning the situation of specific sectors, DG Enterprise and Industry carries out studies made by independent consultants.


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