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Wood, Paper, Printing

Study on competitiveness

"Competitiveness of the European graphics industry - prospects for the EU printing sector to respond to its structural and technological challenges" - published in 2007

The Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the EuropeanCommission entrusted a study regarding the international competitiveness of the European graphics sector to the research institute Ernst & Young. The study brought together sector professionals, trade-union organisations and the industry at large for workshops in London, Milan, Frankfurt and Paris, focusing on industrial aspects, in addition to ones in Grenoble on technology, and Brussels on strategic directions. The initial recommendations by the consultants and the study's steering committee were further validated by a series of 35 interviews with European experts from the sector.

A local business on a global market

The European graphics industry is mainly composed of family-owned SMEs. The vibrant international context and the emergence of new areas of production in the Eastern hemisphere have significantly altered trade flows in printed goods, necessitating a thorough review of the European graphics industry in the light of its need to face its new and aggressive competition. Notably, the Chinese graphics industry, with strong exports and internal demand, is enjoying a double-digit growth rate, and is becoming a redoubtable competitor in certain market segments.

From structural challenges to technological opportunities

The most evident structural challenge for the European graphics industry is the existence of too many small and under-capitalised enterprises, with a strategy which is too often centred on an investment policy geared to increased productivity, thereby generating increased capacity. Investment is also driven by developments in technology which have taken place over the last decade and which have introduced radical changes in market and consumer expectations for printed products. New technologies have also created new needs linked to the increasing amalgamation of services. They lead the traditional printing trade to diversify, use other media, or even switch to offering entirely online services.

Environmental protection can make a difference

With an increasing focus on global services as opposed to the product itself, environmental protection becomes a key differentiator. Even if significant divergence in terms of legal context persists within the 27 EU member states, Europe remains a leader in environmental performance. This creates a new possibility: the relentless legislation imposed over the past few years - often presented as being responsible for endangering the competitiveness of the European graphics industry - may in the future become one of its main assets.

An action plan which is both pragmatic and ambitious

The conclusions of the study present progressive yet readily applicable solutions with a view to helping European printers increase profit margins, refine their investment policy, achieve well thought through improvements in productivity and gain a foothold in value-added segments while focusing on environmental issues to improve the image of the sector. These actions need to be well timed, and the efforts of the graphics industry will require the support of decision-makers at European level, ensuring that the impact on regulation is systematically assessed.

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