Just 15% of the European Union’s GDP was represented by industry in 2014. That figure is down from 18% in 2000, and it continues to fall. Europe’s industries are under immense pressure from globalisation and cheap labour overseas. Those industries that remain are increasingly turning to automation, no longer able to guarantee mass employment for low-skilled European labour.
How can Europe turn around its declining industries? In the wake of the Brexit vote, the coming period of volatility and uncertainty will put even more pressure on Europe’s economy. There will be calls to implement protectionist measures to safeguard European industry – but if everybody does that then global trade will suffer, potentially putting an even greater strain on the economy.
We had a comment from Lois, who believes he has the solution. He argues that the EU needs a Europe-wide industrial policy, aimed at boosting innovation. Would this help rescue Europe’s struggling industrial sector?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Paola Fantini, an independent analyst in industrial sustainability and risk governance. How would she respond?
I believe that we should harmonise top-down initiatives at the European level, as Louis suggests, with initiatives that try to stimulate the unique capabilities of individual regions. Because regions have their own strengths, and whilst their capabilities should be encouraged from the top-down, we also need to give freedom to individuals and small companies in local areas to boost innovation.
For another perspective, we also spoke to Rudolf Frycek, CEO of AMIRES, a consulting company for research, development and innovation projects for industrial clients and the R&D community. We asked him for his thoughts on EU industrial innovation policy. Should it be more co-ordinated across the continent?
The immediate answer is: Of course. We need it, because in front of us we have a transformational change towards a digitised economy. This change is happening, and the question is will Europeans profit from it? So there is an immediate need for EU and national officials to continue debating the social impact, and the social benefits, which industrial technologies can bring. And industry needs to have a clear idea about potential new regulations.
So, in the long-run, I think we will see a transformational change in how industry uses materials and other resources, including personnel. In this context, definitely a continent-wide European policy will be more and more necessary.
Does the EU need a Europe-wide industrial policy? How can Europe turn around its declining industries? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Matty Flicks
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