According to the EESC, the European manufacturing system can only make an effective and competitive transition to a cutting-edge digital and environmentally-friendly economy when it is ready for significant investment in innovation. The steps planned by the European Commission to facilitate better development of the manufacturing system should therefore be based on a real awareness of companies' – especially SMEs' – needs.
Manufacturing accounts for 17.3% of Europe's GDP and representing 80 % of exports. "In view of these impressive numbers, it is essential that Europe pool its forces to maintain and even strengthen this sector", said Antonello Pezzini, rapporteur for the EESC's information report on incremental innovation in high manufacturing areas.
The EESC calls on Europe and its Member States to put in place appropriate educational strategies, which are crucial to acquiring new skills and developing new career paths.
The current industrial revolution uses digital models such as cloud computing and big data, and is moving towards the prospect of the internet of things and "smart" goods. Artificial intelligence is of particular importance in this process, as it has the potential to double annual growth rates within 20 years.
"Europe needs to take decisive steps regarding digital technology and facilitate high tech access to SMEs. The EESC therefore calls for special measures and policies that enable SMEs to increase networking with larger companies and also introduce incentives triggering cooperation in innovation between small and large companies", concluded Mr Pezzini. (sma)