Ladies and gentlemen,
Before going to the substance, I really want to thank DG Grow for putting things together and bringing us together to discuss the future of European industry. Also, a special thanks to DG Research and Innovation, who have contributed significantly to these two days, and to the other services of the Commission that have contributed.
So honourable ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for coming to the second edition of the European Industry Day.
We have been putting quite an emphasis on organising this event, because we hope that the European industrial community, whether you are representing companies, innovators, or workforce, could identify what the major challenges are that are ahead of us and what us regulators at the European level should do differently than what we have done before.
So this is not just a conference or event where the Commission is presenting what we have already done. Quite on the contrary - this is an event, and two days, where we explore new opportunities and new avenues on which the European regulators should concentrate and by doing so, create added value.
We have come here to share our ideas where industrial development is going and also where we want to take it. And what we should do in order to increase industrial competitiveness in the medium and long term.
Also, what we should do to get more high quality jobs, more innovations and growth.
I am personally especially interested in hearing what we have to do to make the EU the leading continent for, for instance, artificial intelligence development - or circular economy, the topic that we discussed in depth earlier this week at the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference.
I am also very interested in hearing what we should do to strengthen and upgrade the skills base of our current workforce. I am passionate about education. I want to provoke you a bit: should the Commission do something differently than what we have done so far, in order to put pressure on our Member States to improve the quality of education? Especially the quality of teachers' training. Do you find this a crucial point? If you do – let us know.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Throughout a number of plenary and thematic sessions we will touch upon all the key themes relevant for the development of European industry.
We will also reflect on the future challenges.
We should ask ourselves: what needs to change today to build the successes of tomorrow? How to stay ahead of the curve?
Our discussions will be accompanied by stakeholders' workshops, organised directly by the participants.
We want you to share your experience, your concerns and your expectations for the future: What are the challenges? What are the best practices? How to raise the ambition level across Europe?
We have certainly come a long way, and we have also learned from past mistakes.
The past crisis has made us stronger.
At present, growth is picking up. We are starting to see the results of our determined policy action. Europe is back!
And while we have already achieved a lot, let's ask ourselves: what more can be done, be it at the international, European, national or regional level?
This is an open invitation to all of you: let's share know-how and new ideas on how to face the challenges of industrial modernisation. This is a process where we need to continuously re-invent ourselves. And this applies also to the European Commission.
The challenges may not always be the same, depending on which corner of Europe or field of business you are coming from, but improving our industry's competitiveness remains our common goal.
Our discussion is not only limited to Brussels. Around 50 events will happen around these days across Europe under the brand of European Industry Week.
Indeed, the success of the industrial policy in Europe is a joint venture. Everyone has a role to play. Success is built on a fruitful cooperation of the EU countries, regions, European institutions, and above all, on the active role of industry itself.
The results of both this conference, but also the reflections at the Industry 2030 High-Level Roundtable that we have set up for this occasion, will serve as a basis for further discussions with other EU institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many of you know that this Commission's guiding principle is to be big on big things and small on small things. The same principle applies to our industrial policy.
If we want the EU's industrial policy to succeed, we need to focus on the bigger picture. We need to bring out the EU's added value where it matters the most.
Therefore we are not in the business of micromanaging individual business decisions from Brussels.
Nor are we in the business of giving artificial life support to businesses that do not have a business case.
Some have tried to take that path in the past. But it simply does not work.
Our approach is different. We want to promote a holistic and ambitious approach.
We want to strengthen industry's ability to adapt and innovate, to enable it to take advantage of the global megatrends and lead the way.
This was also the rationale behind the renewed EU industrial policy strategy adopted by the Commission last September.
Our goal is to empower the European industry to reap the opportunities of industrial transformation. This is how we build the necessary resilience to come out strong from global competition, also on the longer term.
We strongly believe that the role of a successful industrial policy is to create the best framework conditions to strengthen industry's ability to adapt and innovate.
Our industrial policy strategy at EU level relies heavily on the Commission's key policy priorities on which we continue to deliver with good results: the investment plan, the capital markets union, the energy union, digital single market and single market strategies and open, rules-based trade.
We believe that an open, outward-looking EU will be best placed to become the destination of choice for global talent, investment and business.
Did you know that over half of EU businesses are already part of global value chains with strong service components?
And the EU continues to be the main destination for foreign direct investment. It attracted €424 billion of foreign direct investment in 2016.
And what is more, the EU industry has retained a leading position in many sectors in global markets: it is a world leader in especially in high value added, low carbon and sophisticated products and services. This is a very strong basis to build on.
At this point, rather than being tempted to copy protectionist tendencies emerging in some corners of the world, we must draw on our strengths – our deep pool of talent, educated workforce, our traditions of innovation and not least our 500 million people in the Single Market with common rules.
The boost in EU exports reflects impressive improvements in the competitiveness of many EU Member States in recent years.
Business creation and R&D investment are on the rise. The EU is leading the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy. European companies hold 40% of the world's patents for renewable technologies.
We are on the right track for a more sustainable future. And Europe is leading the way globally.
But this is not all: in order to build our resilience in the face of global competition we need to continue determined action across a number of key fields:
We need a better functioning single market; still too many obstacles remain. We need a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose and an enabler of innovation.
We need to fully embrace digitisation and Artificial Intelligence. We need a true digital single market and a thriving data economy.
The single market has to be open to those who will come with the next big idea: we need to stick to our rigorous enforcement of EU competition rules.
The world is changing for people too: we need to endow people with the changing skills which will be needed throughout their working life. That is the purpose of our Skills Agenda.
We have to build a more sustainable future: that means to assert Europe's leadership in low-carbon and circular economy.
And we need to invest in the industry of the future, invest in research and innovation. Making smart and sustainable investments is a win-win for everybody. And let us not forget the strategic role of public procurement in this respect.
Finally, we need to improve access to global markets and promote an open, rules-based trade – fighting unfair practices and protectionist temptations.
We are currently busy moving ahead with the application of the agreements already negotiated – Japan and CETA with Canada – and finishing negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur. In parallel, we continue to continue to work to protect and relaunch the rules-based trading system in the World Trade Organisation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The importance of a rules-based trade and a rules-based world order cannot be underestimated. It is a powerful instrument for promoting security, prosperity and peace.
We are determined to continue our efforts in this respect. This is our key mission. Trade has to be open, fair and rules-based.
Let me also be clear about one thing. We are adamant that the rules must be respected by all players.
This is why the EU stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally a few words on the importance of technology.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, bio-economy and new energy systems. These are all hallmarks of the new industrial age.
The digital transformation is fast. European industry has to be fast too. Digital transformation will bring productivity growth, innovation and competitiveness back to Europe.
Our global competitors are ahead of us in Artificial Intelligence as regards research and development of new technologies, as regards public and private investment, as regards take up and diffusion of technologies.
Where are we in Europe on this?
The share of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Horizon 2020 is one of the world's largest civilian research programs with a total budget close to 700 million Euros, leveraging an additional 2.1 billion euros from the industry. This we can be proud of.
But it does not compare with what is being invested in other countries. And moreover, this is not just about funding.
Too often are our innovation efforts dispersed in many teams and too isolated to make a real difference. We need a true innovation ecosystem.
The Artificial Intelligence strategy that we will launch this spring will aim at raising Europe's ambition.
We need all of you to achieve this: the European industry first of all. And we need private investors to match our financial efforts.
Moreover, of course we need national governments, universities and research centres all over Europe to feed into this process.
I have said it many times, research and innovation is one of the areas where the EU has a clear added value. Research and innovation is at the heart of our industrial policy.
We are using Horizon 2020 to support investments in the technologies that industry needs. We want to continue in the future.
We are also supporting SMEs to deploy innovations based on advances in digital and other key enabling technologies.
We are supporting the development of digital innovation hubs and open innovation test beds for advanced materials and nanotechnologies.
We will also invest a further €670 million in industrial sustainability.
In the building next door – Covent Garden, you can see the results of our programmes. And talk to those who already benefited from various EU actions supporting industrial modernisation. 30 EU-financed projects are waiting for you to share their story.
I would like to invite you all to use this opportunity to discover everything we have to offer at European level to help European industry become stronger.
Let us not forget that this is a joint effort. We are all in this together. Let's make the most of it.