Moverim participated in the EU Industry Days which took place from 23 to 26 February this year, for the first time completely online. The EU Industry Days are Europe’s flagship annual event on industry. It serves as the main platform to discuss industrial challenges and co-develop opportunities and policy responses in an inclusive dialogue with a wide range of partners.
This 4th edition was anticipated given the impact that the Covid-19 crisis had on European industries. Over the course of the four days much of the focus was on taking an optimistic viewpoint on the Covid crisis and how the pandemic gave us the opportunity discuss a Recovery that helps shaping a better Future and Economy. Hence, the discussions revolved on three main theme:
1. Making Europe’s industry climate neutral by 2050
2. Shaping Europe’s digital Future
3. Tackling EU’s competitiveness in the global landscape
Make Europe’s Industry climate neutral by 2050
The EU Green Deal is one of the main focuses of the industry of the future. In an interview with the Executive vice-President of the European Commission, Frans-Timmermans explained that by setting the carbon neutrality target, the EU took a leadership stance on this topic which was soon followed by other main economic actors such as China, Japan or the US.
More investment is needed in the development of renewable energies. The EU is already a leader in the sector of wind turbines and solar panels, however more development has to done concerning the use of ocean energy as well as hydrogen. Measures like the creation of alliances such as the Clean Hydrogen Alliance and European funding such as the Horizon 2020 programme have supported the development of such resources. However, policy-makers can help in making private climate investment safer by providing clearer objectives and safer regulations.
SMEs also have a key role to play in the transition. Representing 80% of European economic actors, they are also key as their partnership with bigger players can facilitate towards the Green Transition. A great example of this is the case of the airline industry. Currently one of the most affected industries by the pandemic with a drop of 65,9% in the demand for air travel, this slowdown in economic activity helped in rethinking the aviation Industry as the sector is one of the most polluting industrial sectors. This February, the Clean Sky roadmap was approved, helping achieving Green Transition for the sector. The role of SMEs in this partnership is key as 246 actors are contributing in powering those solutions.
Shaping Europe’s digital Future
“Europe needs to harness the potential of the digital transition and make industry a key player in that.” These were the words of President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen during her introductory speech at the opening of the event.
Companies have shown resilience also thanks to the use of technologies throughout and after lockdown. This highlights Europe’s need in developing a safe digital future which will help in the Green Transition and increase European industrial competitiveness, in doing so Europe plans its investments under 3 main axes:
Invest in People
In 2019, 42% of EU citizens showed a lack of basic digital skills, highlighting the need to include all citizens in Europe’s transition. In the EU Recovery Plan from the pandemic this issue has been addressed throughout the “Reskill and Upskill” flagship where Member States can use some the of the 671 billion euros in financial support to develop digital skills for their citizens and equip their less advanced regions. Investments also have to be done in the education of future generations to help develop the necessary digital skills to implement new technologies.
Invest in Technologies
The private sector still requires the help of public investment in developing new technologies. This can be the case for connectivity, where all regions need uniform access to data even when economic incentives for some areas are missing. Public investment is also important when new technologies rely on public infrastructure for development which is notably the case of charging stations of electric vehicles in Europe.
In order to lead a recovery that enhances digital development, diverse funding programmes were released. In that respect, The Digital Europe Programme which represents 7.5 billion euros of available funding, spending on R&I through the Horizon Europe programme, as well as 20% of the total envelope of the Recovery Package (140 billion euros) is dedicated to this area.
Invest in a more efficient regulatory framework
EU policy-makers are expected to ease regulations on digital transition facilitating the inclusion of SME’s within the single market and regulating the role of bigger players without affecting Europe’s digital development.
In order to tackle those issues, policy-makers propose two acts which come hand in hand. On the one hand The Digital Market Act which lays out rules for large market players as they are required to act responsibly respecting the competition. On the other, the Digital Services Act which implements a safe digital space which protects the right of digital users whilst helping SME’s make the most of the reach provided by digital markets with their businesses. The EU is also working on further proposals which set rules of practice in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Tackling EU’s competitiveness in the global landscape
Industry actors ask for a more assertive Europe that backs its businesses, as the pandemic has highlighted the need to reshape trade policy. Hence the EU is planning on setting a new plan designed to protect European businesses from unfair trades such as unfair subsidies or forced technologies transfer. In its response Europe has also updated its enforcement regulation, nominated a Chief Trade Officer and a screening mechanism for foreign direct investment.
The EU also needs to provide a response towards its dependency on exports that has been highlighted by the crisis. Last October EU leaders have gathered to discuss such dependencies and identify sectors where this strategy is considered vulnerable. Alliances as well as Public investment are ways to reverse such trends in the sectors.
The focus is also in financially supporting European businesses towards their recovery. That’s why, the temporary state aid framework has been prolonged until the end of the year. The EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027, added to Next Generation EU instrument, also represent the EU’s largest stimulus package with €1.8 trillion.
Overall, the EU’s focus on the Green and the Digital transition is EU’s core strategy in increasing its competitiveness in the long run. Policy-makers have an essential role in facilitating such transition and to set a clear legislative framework to improve of EU’s economy by investing in upskilling its citizens, encourage research and innovation, fostering alliances and facilitating the dual transition for its businesses.