I had the pleasure to host a roundtable with top executives from suppliers of digital technologies as well as of manufacturing, chemical and aeronautic sectors including Thierry Breton, CEO and Chairman of Atos; Erich Clementi, CEO of IBM Europe; Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Board of Siemens; Alain Faessler, Solvay Group General Manager Solvay; Rainer Rauh, Vice President, Airbus; Holger Schwannecke, Secretary General of Zentralverband des deutschen Handwerks, Ulrich Eckelmann, Secretary General of the IndustriAll European Trade Union and Markus Beyrer, Secretary General of Businesseurope. In total we had more than 70 high-level representatives of Member States, national initiatives, associations, and industry including SMEs.
Today's roundtable was a follow-up of previous roundtables with national initiatives and key industry leaders as well as a broader consultation with stakeholders, including the possibility for any interested stakeholder to provide feedback and comments. The objective of today was to present and discuss concrete ideas of a "Digitising European Industry" action plan which have emerged from these consultation and which are planned to form part of a Commission policy document. Our overall strategy aims at establishing a link between national and regional initiatives like Industrie 4.0, Smart Industry, Industrie du Futur, High Value Manufacturing, etc. thereby providing the necessary degree of coordination and helping to reach critical mass where individual initiatives cannot achieve the right scale on their own. The action plan is based on four strands:
Securing easy for all industrial companies, and especially SMEs, wherever they are located in Europe and for any sector – building on and complementing national and regional digital innovation infrastructures;
Aiming for European leadership in digital industrial platforms based on European strengths in important areas of manufacturing and engineering like automotive, aeronautics and energy;
Preparing our workforce to benefit from the digital transformation - by promoting digital skills across Europe and its regions, at all levels of education and training;
Identifying smart regulatory solutions for smart industry – finding the right policy approach to challenging issues like liability and safety of autonomous systems, ownership and use of industrial data, and the emergence of the Internet of Things.
The outcome of our discussions is a broad agreement around the proposed concrete actions, and the message I received today is very clear: there is an urgent need for European industry, Member States and European Commission to act together in order to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by digital technologies in a European digital single market. We have now done a significant step forward in exploring how to better collaborate and how to best mobilise industrial, regional, national and European investments to foster the development of digital ecosystems across all economic sectors in Europe.
We are on the right track, and the event was an important milestone towards a “Digitising European Industry” action plan. Next steps until spring are to present a policy document and to go public with the plan at this year's industrial fair in Hannover.