3D printing, in combination with the internet, robotics and open-source software, will result in a new industrial revolution with profound implications over the coming years for national economies, business models and education.
3D manufacturing – better known as 3D printing – is a process that uses digital "blueprints" to produce three-dimensional products and parts. It is also referred to as "additive manufacturing". A wide variety of materials are commonly used in this process: bioplastics, gypsum, gold, etc. Particular attention should be paid here to the origin of products. There are unprecedented opportunities in this field for businesses.
Starting in the early eighties, the EU legislation related to the extraction, manufacture of products and use of asbestos has become more and more severe. While the original Directive focused on limit values for the use of asbestos, later on, these activities were practically prohibited. Amendments have set the focus on asbestos removal and demolition. Therefore, many provisions of the original Directive were replaced and modified the last years. Although asbestos has been recognized as a very dangerous material and many activities related to its safe removal and neutralization have been promoted, huge quantities of this dangerous substance are still present in the environment and the society.
The Food and drink Industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU economy employing directly 4.25 million workers in the EU. It is a non-cyclical and resilient pillar with a strong presence in all member states. It processes 70% of EU agriculture produce and provides safe, quality and nutritious food to the benefit of European consumers, besides being the largest global exporter of food and drink products. The sector generates 7% of EU GDP and should be an important contributor to achieve the EU target set in the 2020 strategy of achieving the necessary expansion of the manufacturing sector that will make it a contributor of 20% of European GDP.
Key competitiveness indicators show that the sector is losing its competitive edge. An EESC own –initiative opinion will help make the case with the EU Commission for a sectoral focus on the sector. It will indicate those measures necessary to reverse this negative trend and to enhance the sector’s competitiveness both in the Internal Market and in the Global market. The main thrust will be focused on the creation of sustainable employment all along the food supply chain, encouraging and facilitating new investment, promoting innovation policies and enhancing export performance.
Health and related sectors are a central aspect of human existence and thus attract particular attention of citizens. The sectors of biomedical engineering and the medical and care services industry – including research and development – are among the fastest growing industrial areas, in terms of turnover as well as employment. Under biomedical engineering we understand the bridging between methods of engineering and medicine and biology for diagnostic and therapeutic measures in healthcare – including, among others, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical drugs, various types of devices for chemical or biological analysis or processing as well as the development of medical equipment and technology for cure, treatment and prevention of disease. The combination of research and development, engineering and industrial production, and medical and care services is particularly important.
The glass industry is being doubly impacted by the economic crisis, since its activity relies heavily on the economic health of other sectors such as the construction and automotive sectors. Weak economic growth and slowing domestic demand are specifically due to the austerity policies coordinated at European level and together account for the crisis that is affecting the sector.
The EESC welcomes the communication and concludes that the challenges facing European industries are not abating, and without a competitive industrial base, Europe will not secure growth and more jobs. In its opinion the EESC particularly recommends to pay more attention to the role of the services and corresponding policies, in particular knowledge based services, to take measures to reduce energy prices and to encourage innovation, EU competition and state aid policies.
The European Commission under the European Strategy 2020 has established a goal to raise the industry contribution to GDP from 15.6% (2011) to 20% by 2020. The Industrial Policy Communication updated of October 2012 outlines a strategy to reverse the declining role of industry announcing actions in four main areas: Investment in new technologies and innovation; Access to Markets; Access to Finance and Human capital and skills.
In July 2013, the EESC has adopted an Opinion on Industrial policy in which industrial policy was qualified as a Growth initiative with great potentials. Following up the Opinion it is suggested to discuss somewhat underestimated aspects of the on-going industrial cycle that are vital for future growth and jobs, entailing huge consequences for (manufacturing) industry. It is about the impact of services, digitalisation, ICT and new variations in the same framework - such as 3D printing and other applications (ICT-plus) - on the industrial processes. Services are an increasing part of the European economy, and creating more jobs than manufacturing. The ICT-industry itself is growing in Europe by 10% annually. Services and ICT-plus have huge socio-economic and political implications.