Common Industrial Policy: no region will be left behindMaria Koleva , Brussels
Nowadays, the digital shift is transforming everything around with rampant pace, altering the old patterns and cliches and creating huge opportunities for the European industry to innovate, to prosper and to grow. About 1,500 people from industry, the financial sector, academia, civil society, EU institutions, took part at the EU Industry Days, an initiative of the European Commission that was held in Brussels Egg Conference Centre on 5 and 6 February. Issues such as industry and the future of globalisation, creating value for society, circularity and carbon neutrality, were in the centre of the debate.
The discussions brought to the forefront also the topics of clean energy, manufacturing and 4.0 skills, the Circular Plastics Alliance, the Battery Alliance, competitive eco-system for R&D, innovation and digitalisation. During special discussion and Q&A sessions, experts from the Commission presented to the audience what is innovative, green and social procurement, and what new opportunities it gives for the businesses. How does the Enterprise Europe Network help businesses grow faster was on the menu as well.
Saying that industry accounts for more than two-thirds of the EU's exports and explaining it as “one of the main reasons we have partners lining up at our door to secure free trade agreements”, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker labelled the deal with Japan as “a game changer for our industry”. He also underlined that it will open a new marketplace, home to 635 million people and a third of the world's GDP. It will save European companies €1bn in duties every year, and most importantly, it contributes to our principles in areas such as labour, safety, climate and consumer protection becoming the global gold-standard, he emphasised.
According to him, this is the trade that Europe will stand up for with its like-minded partners around the world and “together we are redesigning global trade for the modern economy”. He also pointed out that deepening of the Single Market and completion of the Capital Markets Union are priority. In conclusion, he expressed his belief that if Europe is ambitious and can make the most of its potential, industry can help to shape the future of fair globalisation.
On her part, EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, focused on the need of balance between encouraging digital transformation, innovation and globalisation, on the one side, and ensuring that the benefits are felt by all citizens. She highlighted the four principles to build a Common Industrial Policy. The first is to think regional: “no region will be left behind”, the second: think in strategic value chains. The next two are: innovation and sustainability must go together and make industry responsible, it must provide the innovation and economic leadership.
More than 30 innovative projects with partners in all EU countries, propped up with European money, were showcased at the exhibition hall during the EU Industry Days. One of them came from Tallinn University of Technology, in digitally advanced Estonia. Together with AuVeTECH, a manufacturing company, they were presenting a prototype of the first Estonian self-driving car, 100% electric, with four seats and a possibility for 2-3 standing passengers.
Raivo Sell, programme manager of product development and robotics at the university's Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department, and Martin Paalits from the industrial company, explained that the car's first test was on 20 September last year. Developed as a student project, now the car often makes test drives on the student campus. A video shows how it drives on a real road. Recently the vehicle was upgraded with additional sensors and advanced algorithms, in order to make driving safer. Its speed is now 20km/h and the battery can work without charging for around 70-80km.
Rene Schrottle from Gumpp&Maier, a medium-sized German timber manufacturing company, demonstrated how their model of prefabricated multifunctional facade for deep renovation of old buildings is used in different regions by the Horizon 2020 funded 4RinEU project. It gives excellent results in many aspects, but the enhanced energy efficiency is really impressive. Another big advantage is that during the renovation works the people can remain living in the buildings.
From Spain, Edurne Navarro's fashion business added fresh flavour to the exhibition. Her company ADBUSE started producing elegant leather bags for women three years ago. But her collaboration with the Worth initiative under the Cosme programme gave her opportunity last year to set additional value on her products and to take part at several shows. She made a contact with a producer of GPS devices and of panic buttons and “dressed” them in extremely stylish little cases on a chain handle. Her clients highly appreciated the new accessories that are not just nice, but boost their security.