Despite growing globalisation and challenges from low-wage economies, manufacturing has a bright future in Europe in a sustainable, knowledge-based society. There is a strong indication of the re-emergence of the EU manufacturing sector as part of the new sustainable economy – in technical, environmental and social terms. But it is clear that such sustainable development requires continuing innovation in the underpinning products and processes, with a need for consistent and effective research over the next decade based on a clear and long-term vision.
European companies, particularly SMEs, must evolve and modernise their production processes. New engineering approaches exploiting nanotechnologies, flexible manufacturing, stimulating working environments, ambient intelligence and clean processing should be fostered. This requires more networking, increased flexibility, adapted structures, stronger links between research and innovation, increased added value in products, production and services, and decreased environmental impacts. Research into production processes is therefore a key issue.