An industry vision for a renewed Europe

By Malte Lohan, Orgalim Director General

Orgalim is the foremost voice of Europe’s technology industries at EU level, representing companies that innovate across physical and digital technology to create solutions for a prosperous, sustainable future. In this interview Director General Malte Lohan discusses Orgalim’s vision for Europe – as presented in the recently published ‘2030: an industry vision for a renewed Europe’ and how the right kind of industrial strategy can make it a reality.

As the ‘Future of Europe’ debate ramps up ahead of the EU elections, where does industry fit into the picture?

For us at Orgalim, industry is at the very heart of this debate. Our vision for 2030 is one of a renewed Europe where innovation drives competitiveness and technology responds to citizens’ needs, improving quality of life while enabling the transition to a carbon-neutral, more sustainable society. The technology companies we represent are key to driving this change.

That’s a high ambition how well equipped are Europe’s technology industries to deliver on that promise?

Ours is a diverse and dynamic industry, spanning the mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and metal technology sectors. Companies range from large globally active corporations to SMEs with strong regional roots. Together they form Europe’s largest manufacturing branch directly employing 11 million people, generating turnover of over €2,000 billion and producing one-third of the EU’s manufactured exports.

As concerns grow regarding the EU’s competi- tiveness vis-à-vis China and others, we shouldn’t forget how strong our industrial ecosystem is today. European tech firms are world-leading in innovation and using digitalisation to transform sectors like energy, mobility and healthcare. The challenge for the future will be to get the framework right at EU level so we can build on these strengths.

Speaking of the EU framework, talk of industrial policy has reappeared in political circles in recent months – what do you make of the renewed interest?

It’s good to see industry back in the spotlight, as joined-up political thinking is essential to safeguard Europe’s competitiveness. We have been calling for this for some time. But politicisation can cut both ways, and we get wary when industrial policy is reduced to creating European champions to compete with Chinese state-funded giants, or artificially protecting certain sectors against foreign takeovers. We do not believe the state is the better entrepreneur. This kind of interventionist approach is a far cry from what we in the technology industries are advocating.

What does the ‘right’ kind of industrial strategy look like in that case?

Well for starters, you have to begin with the right question. We need to change perspective: instead of asking ‘what can Europe do for industry?’, we should be asking ‘what can industry do for Europe?’. By putting industry and technology at the heart of solving the challenges we face climate change, demographic shifts, urbanisation, mobility we will not only boost our competitiveness, we can shape a future that’s good for all Europeans.

And what concrete steps would it take to make this a reality by 2030?

Essentially it’s about putting innovation at the heart of Europe’s future. Our roadmap to 2030 outlines three strategic imperatives at EU level to make it happen.

First, we must embrace innovation-led trans- formation. European technology companies are already driving digitalisation in industry and beyond; we can do so much more with the right policies in place from investment in AI, to cyber- security and the data framework. 5G is the perfect example of where EU-level action can make a big difference fast: digital infrastructure is the foundation of technology transformation but we need to act together to boost investment.

The second imperative is to enable European industry’s global leadership. This means massively investing in R&I, recommitting to the Internal Market and flying the flag for open, rules-based global trade. Free, competitive markets are a core European value: I am convinced that a level playing field at home and abroad will prove the EU’s best defence against pressure from countries such as China.

Finally, we must transform societal challenges into drivers of prosperity. For Europe’s technology industries, a big part of our business is designing solutions to these challenges: from the renewable energy systems and smart grids essential for a carbon-neutral future, to the healthcare, mobility and building tech that will shape tomorrow’s smart cities. Fighting climate change is a major opportunity, as our firms are world-leading in developing the technologies to help deliver on the Paris goals giving the EU the chance to set the bar for the rest of the world.

What’s next – where will you be focusing your attention in the coming months?

With a new Parliament and Commission on the horizon, this is a crucial moment. Orgalim stands ready to work with policymakers to harness the potential of Europe’s technology industries to deliver prosperity, jobs and answers to citizens’ challenges.

In addition to our ongoing advocacy work across the policy spectrum, we are promoting our vision for 2030 widely in meetings with key current and future political stakeholders in the EU institutions. And we will continue to col- laborate with partners from other industries and civil society, reinforcing our role as a platform for meaningful, forward-thinking dialogue on the right industrial policy framework. Events such as our roundtable with the European Forum for Manufacturing in the European Parliament in September and Orgalim’s annual conference in November will provide an opportunity to strengthen this engagement. Together, we can show that EU-level collaboration can deliver for Europe, its citizens and its industry towards 2030 and beyond.

Malte Lohan bio