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.
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 total removal of all used asbestos and all asbestos containing products has to be a priority target of the European Union. The EESC encourages the EU to work with the social partners and other stakeholders to develop and share action plans for asbestos removal and management. Several EU Member States have developed registers of buildings containing asbestos. The other Member States should be encouraged to develop such registers.
There is an urgent need to reindustrialise Europe. In order to achieve this the engineering and technical professions should be focused. These professions are indispensable in developing innovative production methods and products. However, without appropriate human resources and their potential, experience and knowledge, this goal is not to be achieved. Industry and companies should introduce communication policy to emphasise the attractiveness of the industrial sector; the crucial role belongs to industry associations. Better dialogue between companies and organisations in charge of vocational training might be an important step in facing the employment creation issue. What is more it could reduce differences between demand and supply.
The policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030, published by the European Commission in January 2014, is mainly concerned with reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the European Union. However, the proposed framework, which is now the subject of much debate, does not ignore the need for competitive and secure energy supplies. On the latter, it proposes that further exploitation of sustainable indigenous energy sources is a necessity, including the exploitation of conventional and non-conventional fossil fuels. Therefore, given that 88% of the EU's conventional energy reserves are in the form of coal and lignite, there is a clear need to consider how these reserves can be exploited sustainably. A report on the future shape of the coal and lignite industry in Europe should be prepared showing the conditions under which it can contribute to competitiveness and security objectives. In the case of security, the European Commission published the EU Energy Security Strategy in May 2014. Various measures are described that would increase the security of energy supply in the European Union.
The Commission’s 2012 Communication on "promoting the cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the European Union" was a milestone in the recognition of the economic, social and cultural importance of these industries by the European institutions. This Communication was accompanied by two staff working documents (SWD) — one relating to the competitiveness of high-end industries , and the other to the competitiveness of the European fashion sector . This was followed by an action plan on the competitiveness of high-end industries and the European fashion sector.
Digital technologies have reached a degree of maturity that allows their use across a wide range of economic sectors in manufacturing as well as in service industries. According to the 2010 edition of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), more than 50% of the EU workforce use ICT in their daily work, with individual EU Member States reaching rates above 85%. Services sectors are identified as the heaviest users of ICT (for instance, more than 90% of finance employees using ICTS in their daily work), which is to be seen as a natural consequence of the increasing digitalisation of many services – such as eBanking, eCommerce, and online media.
The offshore industry comprises offshore energy production, together with the gas, oil and minerals extraction sectors. Some of the most rapidly developing markets are linked to these sectors, offering potential for long-term sustainable and smart growth. Maritime industries linked to the European offshore industry, including sectors such as shipbuilding, ship repairs and conversion, marine equipment and shipping supplies, have both specialist expertise and the requisite human potential enabling them to tap into markets linked to offshore sectors.