Why the EU supports advanced manufacturing

Importance of the manufacturing industry

The manufacturing industry is a strong asset for the European economy and an important driver of employment and prosperity.

It also plays a key role in research and innovation, being responsible for 64% of private sector research development expenditure and 49% of innovation expenditure in Europe.

The sector accounts for

  • 2 million enterprises (around 1 in 10 of all enterprises in the EU-27’s non-financial business economy)
  • €2,078 billion in gross value added
  • 32.1 million jobs in 2019 in manufacturing in the EU 27 (including 14.5 million jobs in advanced manufacturing)

What is advanced manufacturing?

Advanced manufacturing is the use of knowledge and innovative technology to produce complex products such as aeroplanes and medical devices and improve processes to lower waste, pollution, material consumption and energy use.

Robotics, 3D, and 4D printing, artificial intelligence and high performance computing for modelling are also important elements in advanced manufacturing. 

Advanced manufacturing faces 2 important challenges

  • digitisation 
  • the shift towards more environmentally sustainable production

Public-Private Partnerships

Public-private partnerships between industry and the European Commission helps tackle societal and environmental challenges.

They have a strategic importance for the European industry, having an impact on its global technical lead, as well as on the economic growth and creation of new high-skilled jobs in Europe.

Factories of the Future (FOF)

In Horizon 2020, the Commission's current research and innovation funding programme, under the public-private partnership Factories of the Future (FoF) the Commission has invested over €1.15 billion leveraging more than €5 billion additional investments by industry.

Around 270 projects have been launched with more than 1,500 organisations participating across Europe. Out of these 32% are small and medium enterprises.

The successes of Factories of the Future have also inspired national and regional programme initiatives.

Under Horizon Europe, the funding programme that will success Horizon 2020, a new co-programmed partnership Made in Europe is proposed in the area of manufacturing to contribute to Commission priorities a Europe fit for the digital age and the European Green Deal.

Sustainable Process Industries through Resource and Energy Efficiency (SPIRE)

The SPIRE public-private partnership brings together 8 sectors of the European process industry (cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, minerals and ore, non-ferrous metals, steel and water).

Projects funded have reported over 220 significant innovations, with the potential of reducing, on average

  • emissions by 30%
  • fossil energy consumption by 36% 
  • non-renewable primary material consumption by 25%
  • waste by 32% 
  • freshwater consumption by 20%

Some examples of concrete cross-sectorial impact of successful SPIRE projects are

  • recovery of 15% heat loss and the associated decrease of energy costs and of CO2 emissions by optimising production processes
  • 20-50% energy reduction in industrial processes through new energy storage systems
  • 30% higher asset utilisation of wind and solar installations through hydrogen production

The impact of other decarbonisation pathways, such as enhancing energy efficiency or introducing carbon capture and usage, was analysed in European projects in the report Pathways to sustainable industries published in 2018 and the report on Industrial symbiosis published in 2020.

Under Horizon Europe, a new partnership Processes4Planet – Transforming the European Process Industry for a sustainable society is proposed in support of the European Green Deal with the ambition to develop breakthrough technologies, to achieve fully circular production and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.