1. The EU needs to adopt a new and reinforced vision on industrial policy.
It is essential to strengthen EU strategic autonomy on key technologies and future-oriented areas, to set up trade and competition policy tools capable of defending the EU’s industrial interests and to use major industrial challenges, namely the energy and digital transitions, as industrial performance levers. This renewed industrial policy must contain ambitious 2030 industrial targets, indicators to monitor the implementation of the EC’s industrial strategy and strengthened policy governance, including industrial mainstreaming. All this, within the framework of an international context that supports trade exchanges, multilateralism and the promotion of global value chains.
2. The next EU budget is a tool to strengthen European industry’s competitiveness.
The EC’s proposal to increase the budget for RD&I to €100 billion is a positive step to ensure that innovation – more specifically disruptive innovation – constitutes a key theme in the EU budget. However, more ambition is needed, and we call to substantially increase the budget for Horizon Europe to at least €120 billion, as stressed by the Lamy Report. KETs must remain a priority of the structure and technological scope of RD&I funds. Coordination of EU institutions is key for its effectiveness.
3. The launch and support of important projects of European interest (IPCEI), including industrial developments, will structure our strategic value chains:
EU industrial policy should identify and prioritise emerging or existing strategic value chains, which undergo major transformation and matter for the future of industry in Europe. In our view, the following sectors qualify as IPCEI: efficient, safe and integrated mobility; mechanical-electrical equipment; microelectronics; hydrogen; bio-based materials; chemical recycling; additive manufacturing; renovation of buildings; energy production and storage; aeronautics and space; innovative textiles; the health sector; the food industry; data and cybersecurity. IPCEI is an important tool to launch projects aimed at structuring value chains by connecting R&D results to new industrial developments. This is an essential step towards creating favourable conditions for the development of European “industrial champions”.
4. The EU needs to take industrial issues into account in its trade and competition policies and it needs to improve market surveillance to be more efficient and responsive to global threats.
In a context of increasing international competition and the protectionist tendencies of the US in recent times, the priority is to foster open and rules-based markets for trade and investment as well as to develop and enforce multilateral rules related to competition and non-market-oriented policies and players. This needs to be ensured through: 1) a positive trade agenda by the EC guaranteeing European investments in third countries; 2) real reciprocity with third countries regarding access to public-procurement and R&D&I programmes, and 3) an appropriate screening process identifying FDI to protect national security and public order. Competition policy should consider the global dimension of markets for European industrial companies. Finally, to guarantee consumers’ safety and to ensure a level playing field for economic actors, market surveillance and analysis/benchmarking must be strengthened at the EU level.
5. SMEs and start-ups must reap the benefits from an increased support to accelerate their digital transition, the adoption of the Industry 4.0 model and facilitate their sustainable growth.
Building on the success of the COSME and H2020 programmes, the EC proposed to increase support within Horizon Europe’s 3rd pillar (the European Innovation Council) to scale-up SMEs, their digitization process and their growth based on R&I. Funding schemes should be designed to underpin the broad and balanced concept of innovation, offering support to all forms of innovation (i.e. enabling, breakthrough and market-creating innovation). There should be an effort to review financing mechanisms to promote non-bank funding for SMEs and to increase the resources available through the European Investment Bank.
6. The future cohesion policy must be able to contribute to industrial policy objectives.
We welcome the EC’s proposal on European Regional Development and Cohesion Policy, which focuses on investments mainly towards innovation, support to innovative businesses, digital technologies and industrial modernisation. Cohesion policy should follow an inclusive value-chain approach and not exclude mid-caps and larger companies from participating at cohesion funded projects. Enabling synergies with other EU funds is crucial to allow proposals that cannot be funded on a European level to be funded through other programmes and to facilitate joint programming.
7. An EU dimension of policies to develop the skills needed by the industry of the future is necessary.
Therefore, the European Social Fund needs to be reviewed to allocate part of the funding to the development of digital skills. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund’s scope needs to be widened. Additionally, we welcome the EC’s proposal to double the budget for Erasmus. Further, we think that the EC should develop an Erasmus for apprenticeship, professionals and vocational training students ensuring mutual recognition of competences leading towards a European network of national platforms on the evolution of skills, promoting the expansion of dual vocational training to industrial SMEs, and improving the technical skills of future workers (STEAM).
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