Factories of the future
The "Factories of the Future" is one of the three Public-Private Partnership included in the Commission's recovery package. It will consist of a research programme of 1.2 billion Euro to support the manufacturing industry in the development of new and sustainable technologies. The programme will be financed jointly by industry and the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. The research programme will begin with coordinated calls for research proposals which should be launched in July this year. The objective is to help EU manufacturing enterprises, in particular SMEs, to adapt to global competitive pressures by improving the technological base of EU manufacturing across a broad range of sectors.
On 11 March 2009, a first step has been made with the decision of the European Technology Platform on future manufacturing technologies, MANUFUTURE, to engage in a partnership with the European Commission for the development of ‘Factories of the Future’.
Facts and Figures¹
The public-private partnership "Factories of the Future" (PPP FoF) is targeting the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is still the driving force of the European economy, contributing over 6 500 billion euro in GDP and providing more than 30 million jobs. It covers more than 25 different industrial sectors, largely dominated by SMEs, and generates annually 1 500 billion euro of value added.
Building on the EU's excellent R&D base, the future of manufacturing is vital to European economic growth and sustainability. The long-term shift from a cost-based competitive advantage to one based on high added value requires that European manufacturing increases its technological base and develops a number of new enabling production technologies with cross-sectoral benefits. There is an increasing demand for greener, more customised and higher quality products. This initiative will help European industry to meet these needs by converting to a demand-driven industry with lower waste generation and energy consumption.
The European manufacturing sector faces an intense and growing competitive pressure in global markets. European companies are faced with a continuous competition in the high-tech sectors from other developed economies, such as the U.S., Japan and Korea.
Manufacturing has to address the challenge of producing more products with less material, less energy and less waste. Our living standards are on the rise; global manufacturing today has to meet a constantly increasing demand for consumer goods. Manufacturing has to improve its innovation activity. New ideas have to be transformed into new products and processes. Many of the manufacturing companies are SMEs and only a few of them have research capacity and the financial potential to implement high-risk innovative manufacturing technologies.
The way forward
The activities of the PPP FoF will concentrate on increasing the technological base of European manufacturing. The focus will be on the development and integration of enabling technologies, such as engineering technologies, ICT, and advanced materials for adaptable machines and industrial processes. The activities of the initiative will be defined on the basis of the medium and shorter term R&D and innovation needs of the industry and in particular SMEs. Demonstration of newly-developed industrial technologies, ICT and materials will improve the competitiveness of the companies. This initiative is expected to deliver in particular:
- A new European model of production systems for the factories of the future (e.g. transformable factories, networked factories, learning factories) depending on different drivers such as high performance, high customisation, environmental friendliness, high efficiency of resources, human potential and knowledge creation.
- ICT-based production systems and high quality manufacturing technologies capable of optimising their performance with a high degree of autonomy and adaptability for a balanced combination of high throughput and high accuracy production.
- Sustainable manufacturing tools, methodologies and processes that have the capability of cost-efficiently shaping, handling and assembling products composed of complex and novel materials.
In order to guarantee a quick start, we will make use of existing instruments. The Commission should launch cross-thematic calls for research proposals from the FP7 thematic areas "Nanotechnologies, Materials and Production Technologies', and ICT in July 2009. A multi-annual work programme will be developed together with the industry.
Member States have also expressed a desire to work more closely together to support research into eco-innovation for the manufacturing sector. The European Commission is therefore preparing to launch a new tool to support the coordination of national research programmes - an ERANET² on Manufacturing. This will allow Member States' to align their research strategies and their own research funds and issue joint calls for proposals.
¹ Source: OECD and Eurostat
² An ERA Net is a scheme dedicated to support the coordination and networking of national and regional research programmes from different EU Member states and FP7 Associated countries