Brus­sels seeks € 50 bln for “In­dus­try 4.0” plan

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion un­veiled its long-awaited strat­egy to sup­port the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of in­dus­try on Tues­day, aim­ing to mo­bilise around EUR 50 bln by 2021tch up in the global race for the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

The con­junc­tion of cut­ting edge tech­nolo­gies such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, com­bined with the spread of cheap sen­sors and ad­vanced ro­bot­ics are all point­ing to the ar­rival of a new in­dus­trial era.

But com­pared to the United States or Ja­pan, the tra­di­tional in­dus­trial base in Europe is slow to adopt th­ese tech­nolo­gies and reap the ben­e­fits of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion.

“It will be com­plex, it will take time but it is very nec­es­sary,” said An­drus An­sip, the Com­mis­sion Vi­cePres­i­dent for the Dig­i­tal Sin­gle Mar­ket. “The In­dus­try has asked us to build the foun­da­tions of our in­dus­trial fu­ture and there is no time to lose,” he told re­porters in Brus­sels as he pre­sented the new strat­egy. “We have to hurry up,” he stressed. A Euro­pean Par­lia­ment study es­ti­mates that EUR 40 bln in in­vest­ments will be needed ev­ery year in Ger­many alone to dig­i­talise the in­dus­try. In Europe, the fig­ure could reach as much as EUR 140 bln.

The fig­ure looks im­pres­sive but the prom­ises are equally high. Across Europe, PwC and Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group es­ti­mate that the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of in­dus­try could cre­ate an ad­di­tional EUR 110 bln per year over the next five years.

In or­der reap the ben­e­fits of the tran­si­tion to “In­dus­try 4.0” (as the Ger­mans la­belled this new man­u­fac­tur­ing par­a­digm), a more co­her­ent ap­proach and deeper co­op­er­a­tion is re­quired across Europe, with a more gran­u­lar im­ple­men­ta­tion at re­gional level, and com­mon stan­dards for man­u­fac­tur­ers from Lis­bon to Helsinki.

To that end, the EU ex­ec­u­tive pro­poses mea­sures to link up ex­ist­ing na­tional ini­tia­tives in var­i­ous mem­ber states and sup­port in­vest­ment in key tech­nolo­gies that are ex­pected to fuel the next in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Com­mis­sion, there are cur­rently more than 30 na­tional and re­gional ini­tia­tives re­lated to the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing in Ger­many, The Nether­lands, France, Italy, Spain and Slo­vakia.

In or­der to bet­ter screen and co­or­di­nate those, the Com­mis­sion will or­gan­ise var­i­ous meet­ings ev­ery year — two round­tables and one an­nual ma­jor stake­holder meet­ing.

On top of that, EU au­thor­i­ties will in­vest EUR 500 mln to set up dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion hubs in tech­ni­cal uni­ver­si­ties and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions across Euro­pean re­gions. Th­ese hubs will help power the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion from the bot­tom- up by sup­port­ing SMEs ini­tia­tives at re­gional level.

In or­der to sup­port the tran­si­tion to­wards this fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, the EU will rely pri­mar­ily on pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships (PPPs), by in­vest­ing around EUR 22 bln.

Th­ese ini­tia­tives will sup­port the in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion in ar­eas where Europe is well-po­si­tioned, such as the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, health or en­ergy. The pri­vate sec­tor will con­trib­ute EUR 17 bln, while an ex­tra EUR 4 bln and 1 bln will re­spec­tively come from EU funds and na­tional govern­ments.

The Com­mis­sion also urges mem­ber states to add an­other EUR 15 bln over the next five years to sup­port th­ese PPPs. EU au­thor­i­ties rec­om­mend the na­tional govern­ments to look for fi­nanc­ing un­der the Euro­pean Fund for Strate­gic In­vest­ment (EFIS), the new EU guar­an­tee scheme to sup­port in­vest­ment in the 28-country bloc. To­gether with EUR 5.5 bln from na­tional and re­gional in­vest­ment in the dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion hubs and EUR 6.3 bln com­mit­ted for the pro­duc­tion of the next gen­er­a­tion of elec­tronic com­po­nents, EU au­thor­i­ties ex­pect EUR 50 bln in­vest­ment in the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of in­dus­try over the next five years.

The EU has al­ready launched a PPP fo­cus­ing on the next gen­er­a­tion of wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity (5G) and the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, as Euro­peans want to pri­ori­tise the in­dus­trial di­men­sion of the next gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile in­ter­net. Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion and clear reg­u­la­tion on the flow of data, the new ‘oil’ of this fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, are seen as crit­i­cal to fa­cil­i­tate the in­volve­ment of high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing.

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