Although industrial and enabling technologies can be developed especially in response to a specific problem, in most cases this is not the best approach since “convergence” among disciplines and sectors - together with exploitation of synergies among different financial instruments - is the only way to enhance the importance of each component. Also new solutions have to be sought by jointly considering the evolution of product, process, production systems and markets. The potential of such combinations is based on the creation of value which goes beyond the mere sum of all the components involved.
It is possible to imagine a future where European manufacturing will be based on distinctive productive and technological poles where companies' excellence will be based on a balance between diversification and specialization. This depends on collaboration with research and technological centres and Universities, as well as with other companies and technology providers deeply rooted in a strong manufacturing culture, with a new configuration of territorial and industrial organizations where the cultural, economic and social factors are part of a shared vision.
The real challenge for industry resides in maintaining a competitive advantage while answering to specific needs with innovative products and processes, as well as keeping core knowledge and competences in Europe. Therefore high performance technologies, additive manufacturing, end-of-life innovative services, and new production paradigms should be applied and integrated in factories developed according to a human centered approach and operating through new sustainable and environmentally conscious production system.
The competitiveness of a country increasingly depends on knowledge and capabilities, therefore people will be more than in the past the key for success of a society and its industry. It can also be said, that the very existence of the European Union depends on its inhabitants identifying themselves as Europeans. Since people are more and more important assets for the future of Europe, unleashing their potential through effective education is a key factor in development. At each level, education must be brought to the point where knowledge leads to the capability of solving problems and inventing a new future. A new type of lifelong education is required, in order to valorise existing European culture, understand other cultures and create a new paradigm which better serves and addresses the future society.
A new Europe requires bold decisions to be taken and new economic research systems and models to be implemented. However, change has to be generated by valorising existing strengths while changing the rules of the game. The challenge is then to drive this complex evolution and at the same time be open with citizens about what is happening and what comes next. This shift certainly requires new rules and public standards across a variety of sectors (new industrial policy, new social policy). Regarding Research and Innovation, it requires a combination of actions: linking funding instruments, new ways of coordinating public and private, EU, national and regional funding, a knowledge-based industrial governance, better links between political authorities, research communities and society. It also implies the active involvement of the innovation chain (institutions, academia, industry, society) in the process, and requires citizens to take on a new role.
Research can provide disruptive, non-incremental innovation that can create new industry sectors and regenerate existing ones: this can lead to unique opportunities for long-term development, high quality jobs and wealth. The challenge is making the policy choices that will allow to recognize and stimulate such transitions in diverse fields in order to reproduce the kind of paradigmatic changes that we have observed in past decades: from light bulb to LED, from typewriters to computers.