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Industrial innovation

Conference "Mission Growth" - Conference note: political context and background

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Conference note: political context and background

Europe is facing an economic and social situation unprecedented since the end of World War II. Along with the need to create new jobs and boost our competitiveness, we are facing other vital challenges: the number of ageing European citizens in the context of a growing world population, increasing pressure on the availability of raw materials and energy supplies, and the need to counter climate change and preserve ecosystems.

These are formidable challenges. Nevertheless, they should also be seen as an opportunity for a positive transformation, as a chance to create demand for new goods and services, and to create more jobs.

If we want to make the most of this opportunity, policies should play its part in a new industrial revolution. With the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union is well-positioned to promote and foster the revolution under way. Now is the time to turn good intentions into the right practical choices.

The Commission has reacted by bringing growth objectives higher in the ranking of our priorities. As president Barroso underlined in his May 9 speech, re-launching growth and job creation requires financial stability as well as "structural reforms and targeted investment".

The first industrial revolution is often associated with the use of carbon and steam for powering machines. Then came the age of oil. The new industrial revolution, boosted by technological developments, should lead towards the gradual introduction of substitutes for hydrocarbons as our main source of energy, and towards more efficient and sustainable use of resources that will become increasingly scarce.

The current lack of confidence in undermining the dynamism of European manufacturing, delaying investment plans, especially for SMEs. The outlook is particularly bleak for investment in equipment: uncertainty remains a drag to investment decisions.

Technological and non-technological innovation will not happen without industrial investment. We must break up the trend of stagnant competitiveness of the last decade by increasing our capacity to take innovations to the marketplace.

The new industrial revolution will affect many economic sectors: manufacturing, services, energy, raw materials, transport, construction and chemicals. It will be accompanied by technological innovation and the creation of new professions.

Europe now needs to step up our efforts laid out in the Europe 2020 strategy to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable and competitive economy. This is not about creating more debt. On the contrary, this is about restoring our public finances by using money in a more efficient way.

The conference on 29 May, convened by Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Enterprise and Industry, will be an occasion to discuss the opportunities offered by the new industrial revolution and to explore how to formulate a European strategy to exploit the potential for growth.

Along with José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, speakers will include leading political and economic actors who will contribute to developing practical proposals to overcome the crisis and help Europe take a leading role in shaping the future.

The morning discussion includes two panels: The first with CEOs of leading European industry and the second with European politicians. In the afternoon three forums with prominent speakers and key stakeholders will go in depth discussing three topics: financing of the new industrial revolution, boosting the market demand for new products and skills for the new industrial revolution.

On top of the challenges set by the economic crisis, European industry is transforming as a result of three major shifts: introduction of technologies (Key Enabling Technologies), customised and user-driven production (design) and integration of services and production (workplace innovation and clusters).

The transformation of the current industrial production will enquire large investments in innovation, equipment and changes in energy supply and networks. Innovation, technological and non-technological is crucial to generate the growth and jobs we need to get the EU economy out of the crisis by translating our R&D strengths into industrial competitive advantages.

There is a need for a more ambitious industrial innovation policy:

  • Improving framework conditions for developing and implementing new technologies, goods, services and business models, including a stable regulatory environment, an earlier provision of regulation and standards needed to create an internal market with a high demand for new innovative products and services, as well as increased use of innovative public procurement.
  • Improving the available skills base, increasing the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates, fostering inter-disciplinarity, promote entrepreneurship education and training and encourage women entrepreneurs
  • Improving the financing of innovation and risk capital especially for young innovative SMEs, including through improved venture capital, risk sharing facilities and project bonds

Please see the conference webpage to download the discussion papers for the three forums.

The Mission Growth conference on 29 May will be this spring's key event for the debate on how Europe should turn the economic crisis into growth and opportunities, to launch a new industrial revolution and growth plan.

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