This article is part of our special report Innovation and the Digital Economy.
The Commission has proposed a new industrial EU strategy for electronics, as the 27-country bloc is at risk of losing the capability to design and manufacture electronic components that are essential for the digital economy.
With an average growth rate of 5% per year since 2000, the European electronics industry today, employing 200,000 people directly and one million more indirectly, the sector still struggles to meet further demand for skilled workers.
However, no single member state or single company in Europe has the resources to keep up with the speed of technology development and the high costs of research, development and innovation.
Therefore, the Commission is proposing a strategy for electronics to focus on areas of strengths (world-leading clusters and competitive industries in key sectors), bringing together resources at EU, national and regional levels and to invest in skills.
The Commission expects that all economic sectors in Europe will benefit from the strategy, as at least 10% of GDP depends on electronic products and services.
Vital for other sectors
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday (23 May), the commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said that these days every other sector depends on electronics so it makes sense to have a strategy.
"If our electronics, and that is my main motivation, are not competitive, then every other sector suffers and our entire manufacturing base is at risk," Kroes said.
Kroes added that the Commission's goals are quite simple:
"We must attract higher investments and collaborate across borders and use the single market. That will allow the sector to play the role of supporting new jobs and new economic growth across the whole economy."
The commissioner said she hoped for an investment that matches the size of the challenge; around €5 billion for innovation, research and development over seven years. This should come from the Commission, member states and regions.
Brussels' level of ambition is backed by the electronics industry and researchers who at the end of 2012 outlined how a total investment of €100 billion could be delivered between 2013-2020.
Kroes mentioned that the strategy will especially benefit the nano-eletronics, micro-electronics and photonics sectors where Europe is first or second best in class. These sectors are also linked to eHealth, energy, transport and climate issues.