Manufacturing represents approximately 21 % of the EU’s GDP and 20 % of its employment, providing more than 30 million jobs in 230 000 enterprises, mostly SMEs. Moreover, each job in industry is considered to be linked to two more in related services. European manufacturing is also a dominant element in international trade, leading the world in areas such as automotive, machinery and agricultural engineering. Already threatened by both the lower-wage economies and other high-tech rivals, the situation of EU companies was even made more difficult by the downturn.
Restoring growth and achieving sustainability require a strategic shift in Europe from cost-based competition to an approach based on the creation of high added value. There is also an increasing demand for greener, more customised and higher quality products. Manufacturing needs to address the challenge of producing more, while consuming less material, using less energy and creating less waste. These are in fact the basic pillars of the research and innovation in production technologies stimulated by the FP7-NMP programme.
After the down-turn the Public Private Partnership Factories of the Future (FoF) established. This PPP is a EUR 1.2 billion programme in which the European Commission and industry are collaborating in research to support the development and innovation of new enabling technologies for the EU manufacturing sector. The initiative is helping EU manufacturing enterprises, especially SMEs, to adapt to global competitive pressures by improving the technological base of EU manufacturing systems.