Written by Marcin Szczepański,
Through its industrial policy, the European Union (EU) has been striving to create conditions conducive to increasing industry growth and competitiveness since 1992. European industry remains a cornerstone of the economy, providing one job out of five and is responsible for the bulk of EU exports and investment in research and innovation. Today, the aim of EU policy is to enable a successful transformation towards a digital, knowledge-based, decarbonised and more circular industry in Europe. To reach this goal, the EU supports, coordinates or supplements Member State level policies and actions, mainly in the areas of research and innovation, SMEs and digital technologies.
In a recent Eurobarometer poll conducted for the European Parliament, more than half of EU citizens expressed support for increased EU action on industrial policy. Despite this, it is still the least understood policy area covered in the poll.
Since 2014, efforts have been made in a number of areas, including investment (mainly through the European Fund for Strategic Investment, which supports industrial modernisation); digitalisation (for example setting up a number of research partnerships, or a growing network of digital innovation hubs); financing (making it easier for industry and SMEs to access public markets and attract venture funds); greener industry (for example through the revised 2030 emission targets, or measures on clean mobility); standardisation (bringing together relevant stakeholders to collectively develop and update European standards); and skills (mobilising key stakeholders to close the skills gap and providing an adequate workforce for modern industry). The European Parliament has called for ambitious policies in many of these areas.
In the future, EU spending on key areas relevant to industrial policy is expected to rise moderately. The European Commission proposes to boost the share of EU spending on research, SMEs and key infrastructure, although not as much as Parliament has requested. In the coming years, policies are likely to focus on fairer global competition, stimulating innovation, building digital capacities and increasing the sustainability of European industry.
Read the complete briefing on ‘EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Industrial policy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.