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EU teams up with industry to support strategic sectors and generate jobs

End of the signing ceremony of the Public Private Partnership on Factories of the Future (FoF): Dr Massimo Mattucci from Italian industrial firm COMAU, on the left, Maurizio Gattiglio, Executive Vice-President for Strategic Business Development at Prima Industrie S.p.A. and Chairman of the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA), in the centre, and Vice-President Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, on the right.
End of the signing ceremony of the Public Private Partnership on Factories of the Future (FoF): Dr Massimo Mattucci from Italian industrial firm COMAU, on the left, Maurizio Gattiglio, Executive Vice-President for Strategic Business Development at Prima Industrie S.p.A. and Chairman of the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA), in the centre, and Vice-President Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, on the right.

The EU has teamed up with companies to help keep Europe’s position in sectors such as construction, robotics, photonics, high-performance computing and telecoms, create jobs, and tackle some of society’s big challenges.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it will make just over EUR 6 billion available for eight contractual public-private partnerships (PPPs), launched in Brussels on 17 December 2013, and industry will add more.

‘Europe needs industry to innovate to create income and jobs,’ said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. ‘New technologies and products, such as green cars, energy-efficient buildings and cleaner manufacturing processes, are essential to address societal challenges such as climate change, energy, and resource efficiency.’

Four of the eight PPPs Factories of the Future, Energy-Efficient Buildings, European Green Vehicles Initiative and Future Internet  were started and proved successful under FP7, the EU’s 2007 to 2013 funding programme.

The idea has now been extended under Horizon 2020, the EU’s funding programme that runs from 2014 until 2020, to include four more  Sustainable Process Industry, High Performance Computing, Robotics, and Photonics  and the existing Future Internet PPP has been extended with a new focus on 5G through the 5G PPP.

‘New technologies and products, such as green cars, energy efficient buildings and cleaner manufacturing processes, are essential to address societal challenges such as climate change, energy and resource efficiency.’

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

The sectors covered by the contractual PPPs represent a significant part of the European economy, and that means the research they fund will help push forward sectors that have a strategic importance for Europe.

‘I am sure that with these initiatives we are going to promote this sector within Europe and it is good news,' said Emmanuel Forest, from Bouygues, representing the energy-efficient buildings PPP. ‘We would like to turn the construction sector into a knowledge-based, sustainable business.’

The European manufacturing industry accounted for more than one in five European jobs, while the telecommunications sector employs 1.2 million people.

‘Armed with these PPPs and a comprehensive industrial strategy for each sector, we can ensure vigorous European leadership that creates a better future for all,’ said Vice-President Neelie Kroes, Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda.

The PPPs can generate new ideas by giving specific industries such as chemicals and metals companies the chance to address together problems such as increasing the efficiency of their operations. That could result in solutions such as using the waste product from one industry as the raw material for another.

‘We have one project where we are looking at building carbon dioxide into a plastics molecule and we’re working with other industries here to put the synergies together,’ said the president of the sustainable process industry PPP, Dr Klaus Sommer, from Bayer.

Generating investment from industry

The EU’s investment in these eight PPPs should generate further financing from industry. The European Commission expects that for each euro of public money, industry will contribute between EUR 3 and EUR 10. Researchers will access the new funding by responding to calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, the EU’s nearly EUR 80 billion research funding programme.

The contractual PPPs focus on financing research that has practical applications in industry, giving businesses access to new products and new ideas.

‘There’s been a big change in the rules where, instead of financing (early stage) R&D, we are actually investing in things which are much further advanced in their state of technological readiness,’ said Georgio Anania, from the photonics PPP, who is also chief executive of LED firm Aledia.

‘We finance things all the way through to industrialisable prototypes, and things that have real economic value that industry can take up.’

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