The transformation promised by Industry 4.0 is an enormous opportunity in terms of jobs, growth and improving people’s lives. New and emerging technologies are key drivers for the development of innovative products, processes and services and offer opportunities for both small and large enterprises. However, at present European businesses are not moving fast enough to embrace these opportunities. There is scope for more action to modernise European industry and to take advantage of the increasing inter-linkages between goods and services. Europe is well placed to achieve this as it still has a leading position in many manufacturing and services industries and in both digital and key enabling technologies.
The Commission has already built a strong industrial dimension into its major initiatives. The Single Market Strategy and the Digital Single Market Strategy are designed to establish a truly single market to further encourage innovation and industrial modernisation. However, more needs to be done in order to help our industry and our society prepare for the future. Most of all, the actions proposed by the Commission need the support of the Member States, regions and industry itself to make it all happen on the ground.
The Commission’s industrial initiatives address the needs of specific sectors where new technologies can have the biggest impact, as well as the general business environment. Current major initiatives target the automotive, space, defence and energy industries.
Connected cars and autonomous driving require automotive digitalisation. The Commission recognised the urgent need for an EU strategy and it launched the GEAR 2030 highlevel group gathering relevant stakeholders, ministers and Commissioners which will make first recommendations on the roll out of automated and connected vehicles by the end of this year.
The emergence of new competitive actors in the space sector stimulated Europe to create a more agile and dynamic environment able to match businesses’ needs. The Commission’s Space Strategy launched in October aims at fostering the take-up of space data by innovative businesses, promoting the emergence of new space-based applications and services, and creating a predictable investment environment for industry and start-ups to flourish. This will enable Europe to benefit from its space investments and help the EU space industry to remain a world leader.
Innovation-related technologies also have a great impact in the defence sector. European industry must meet Europe’s mid-to-long term strategic defence needs. The Commission’s European Defence Action Plan will identify ways EU programmes and funds can be used to support projects related to European defence needs. Moreover, a European Defence Fund, will for the first time fund research in this particular area.