Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable industry – A renewed EU industrial policy strategy (Communication)

EESC opinion: Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable industry – A renewed EU industrial policy strategy (Communication)

As a key driver of productivity and innovation, industry has always been a cornerstone of economic prosperity in Europe. We can rely on a strong industrial base, but important efforts are needed by Member States, EU institutions and most importantly industry itself to maintain and reinforce Europe's industrial leadership in the age of globalisation, sustainability challenges and rapid technological change.

President Juncker's Political Guidelines have underlined the importance of a strong and high performing industry for the future of Europe's economy and the need to bring industry's weight in the EU GDP back to 20% by 2020. Industry provides 36 million direct jobs, contributes to high standards of living for our citizens. It plays a key role in supporting Europe's global leadership and international stature. The President of the European Parliament has also only recently again recalled the importance of Europe's industrial base as key focus of our policies.

Europe is the global leader in many industries, especially in high value added, low carbon and sophisticated products and services. This position has been built on a large Single Market with 500 million consumers, strong value chains, a skilled and talented workforce and a world-class science base. However, major efforts are needed to adjust to the challenges and reap the vast opportunities of the new industrial age.

The hallmarks of this new industrial age are the accelerated pace of economic, societal and environmental transformations as well as technological breakthroughs in areas like robotics, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, energy systems and bio-economy. Automation, enabled by information technologies, is transforming traditional manufacturing processes and the nature of work. Industry is increasingly integrated in global value chains with strong service components. Emerging business models disrupt traditional markets.

Innovation itself and value creation are changing in profound ways, driven by a new generation of consumers who expect value-co-creation, connectivity and real-time performance measurements. This also is blurring the distinction between manufacturing and services. Data are becoming the new competitive factor in our connected world. And with strained natural resources and climate change becoming an ever more tangible reality, demand for sustainable products and circular consumption will increase exponentially.

These trends are real and irreversible, and industry is starting to seize the opportunities they present. EU industry has been able to reverse the decline in the EU industry's export market shares and in the share of industry of total value added. The market shares of EU exports are gradually increasing for goods and stable for services. Industry gross value added for the EU27 has increased by 6.4% between 2009 and 2016 and by 4.7% for the EU28. The contribution of manufacturing industries and manufacturing inputs from the extractive industries and utilities industries to total value added accounted for 21% in the EU27 (19% in the EU28) in 2016 5 . Manufacturing added value alone has grown by 25% in EU27 (23% in EU28) in real terms since 2009, its share as a proportion of the economy has increased from 15.5% (14.7% in EU28) to 17.1% (16.1% in EU28).