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Key Enabling Technologies and Digital Economy

Key Enabling Technologies

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A significant part of future goods and services are as yet unknown, but the main driving force behind their development will be Key Enabling Technologies (KETs), such as nanotechnology, micro- and nanoelectronics including semiconductors, advanced materials, biotechnology and photonics. Mastering these technologies means being at the forefront of managing the shift to a low carbon, knowledge-based economy. They play an important role in the R&D, innovation and cluster strategies of many industries and are regarded as crucial for ensuring the competitiveness of European industries in the knowledge economy.

These technologies enable the development of new goods and services and the restructuring of industrial processes needed to modernise EU industry and make the transition to a knowledge-based and low carbon resource-efficient economy. Whilst the EU has very good research and development capacities in some key enabling technology areas, it has not been as successful at translating research results into commercialised manufactured goods and services. Key Enabling Technologies are of systemic relevance as they enable the development of new goods and services and the restructuring of industrial processes needed to modernise EU industry and secure the research, development and innovation base in Europe.

The European Commission tabled on 26 June 2012 its strategy 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.
"A European strategy for Key Enabling Technologies - A bridge to growth and jobs" Communication adopted on 26 June 2012.

A permanent Observatory on KETs (as announced in the 2012 Communication "A European strategy for Key Enabling Technologies - A bridge to growth and jobs") has been set up in 2013:  


The Commission in its Communication "Preparing for our future: Developing a common strategy for key enabling technologies in the EU" COM(2009)512 has identified those KETs that strengthen the EU’s industrial and innovation capacity to address the societal challenges ahead and proposes a set of measures to improve the related framework conditions. As such, it forms part of the development of EU industrial policy and of the preparation for the new European plan for innovation.

The Communication is complemented by the Staff Working Document "Current situation of key enabling technologies in Europe" SEC(2009)1257 that explains why advanced materials, nanotechnology, micro- and nano-electronics, biotechnology and photonics have been identified as priority areas for improving European industrial competitiveness.

The Communication set up a high-level expert group tasked with developing a shared longer term strategy and action plan on the identified KETs. This group was launched by Vice-Presidents Antonio Tajani, Neelie Kroes and Commissioner Maíre Geoghegan-Quinn on 13 July 2010 with a mandate of one year. The group presented its final report to the Commission on the 28 June 2011.

The Communication outlines ten policy areas which need to be addressed, including focusing innovation policy more on KETs, promoting more EU-wide technology transfer, as well as more joint strategic programming and demonstration projects, not to mention greater international co-operation. The European Commission also recommends the harnessing of targeted and fair state aid policy, lead markets, public procurement and venture capital financing as ways of stimulating key enabling technologies.

Furthermore, the Commission suggests that KETs should be linked closely to climate change policies and be placed at the top of the EU’s international trade agenda to promote KETs and avoid trade distortions. Skills, higher education and training are also crucial priorities in the rapidly changing world of cutting-edge technology.

Moreover, in the Communication the Communication called for an intensified exchange of experiences and best practices between EU Member States and with other high-technology regions. For this purpose, the Commission has launched a following studies: "Cross-sectoral analysis of the impact of international industrial policy on Key Enabling Technologies pdf - 4 MB [4 MB] " and "Exchange of good policy practices promoting the industrial uptake and deployment of Key Enabling Technologies pdf - 6 MB [6 MB] ".

"In addition, the Commission launched in 2011 a feasibility study for an EU monitoring mechanism on KETS (final report pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] , annex 2 pdf - 289 KB [289 KB] , annex 3 pdf - 273 KB [273 KB] , annex 4 pdf - 5 MB [5 MB] , annex 5 pdf - 281 KB [281 KB] , annex 6 pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] ).

In the last semester of 2012 the Commission launched a study on international market distortion in the area of KETs pdf - 2 MB [2 MB] . The study concluded that several competitor countries, including developing, emerging and mature industrial economies, provide significant incentives for investors in KETs manufacturing which Member States are not always able to match. The instruments used to attract investment by EU companies include a broad variety of the targeted policies that governments can apply to attract high-tech (specially KETs) industries. The study highlights several interesting cases of market distortion.

The multi-KETs Pilot Lines project (mKPL) started in January 2013 and was assigned by DG Enterprise and Industry. This ambitious project aims at the preparation of a common understanding of what pilot lines are and how they can be supported by the European Commission. An invitation to submit an expression of interest to act as a multi-KET pilot production demonstration project is open until 16 September 2013.  Access more information on the submitting and expression of interest for mKPL project.

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