Since the beginnings of the Von der Leyen Commission in December 2019, the green and digital transition were set as one of the EU’s executive’s major priorities in the long run. This was made even more evident in the requirements addressed to the Member States for the recovery funds following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to what extent should the Industrial Policy be involved in this transition?
The Industrial Forum
To answer this question, the Industrial Forum was created in 2021 to assist the Commission in implementing the 2020 «new industrial strategy for Europe» (European Commission, 2021). The forum monitors and analyses the EU’s industrial ecosystem, considering how the digital and green transition would plausibly fit into it in a near-future new industrial scenario in Europe.
The forum is composed of various social actors, from the public to the private sector (involving industry stakeholders, NGOs, research institutions, among others), joined by the expertise of adjacent Commissions. Most notably, A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Internal Market.
The forum assists EU’s 2020 industrial strategy on its three main objectives:
· Strengthening the resilience of the Single Market: through monitoring, structural solutions, the harmonization of standard, and the digitalization of market surveillance;
· Strengthening EU’s strategic autonomy: through industrial alliances and international partnerships;
· And accelerating the above-mentioned green and digital transitions.
Industrial ecosystems: the health sector
The industrial ecosystems covered by the forum range from agri-food to health, including sectors such as electronics, energy-renewables, or construction. The sectors covered by EU’s updated industrial strategy will be of particular attention as a consolidation of the European single market through further regulations and standards can be expected.
The health ecosystem, in particular, has been of major concern for the Commission, and in particular following the COVID-19 pandemic, which unveiled the crucial need for a «European Union of Health». The ecosystem is composed of healthcare services and pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing.
On its 2021 «Annual Single Market Report», the Commission sent a list of priorities to tackle weaknesses and reinforce the EU’s health sector market: by strengthening the supply chains and ensuring competitive prices of medical devices. Among other objectives, these are expected to reinforce the EU’s strategic dependencies on raw materials in the sector, which are also relevant to support the transition to a green and digital industry within the EU’s internal health ecosystem.
Strategic areas: raw materials
To evaluate how to strengthen the EU’s autonomy on its strategic dependencies, the Forum performed an in-depth analysis of six main focus areas. A key one: raw materials.
The green and digital transition depends on metals and minerals that are necessary to produce electronic components, light-emitting devices, magnets, and hydrogen fuel cells and electrolysers, among others. However, the EU demands more raw materials than it has, and a 40% growth in consumption is expected by 2040, making the Union highly dependent on other countries in this regard.
The 2020 Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials aims to create a resilient raw materials supply chain by diversifying sources, reducing dependencies, and improving circularity.
What is the news?
On the 2nd of December 2021, the Forum’s third meeting took place. The focus was on Key Performance Indicators to be achieved on target areas of the 2030 Industrial Policy Strategy, such as the aforementioned on raw materials. This Strategy will affect both SMEs and big industries with further standardization, regulations and vigilance, and has a clear objective: to make the future’s EU industrial sector both green and sustainable while still competitive and capable of keeping a state-of-the-art technological development.
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· European Commission. (2021). Annual Single Market Report 2021. Accompanying the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy: Building a stringer Single Market for Europe’s recovery. Retrieved on 07/01/2022 from swd-annual-single-market-report-2021_en.pdf (europa.eu)
· European Commission. (2021). European Industrial Strategy. Retrieved on 07/01/2022 from European industrial strategy | European Commission (europa.eu)
· European Commission. (2021). In-depth reviews of strategic areas for Europe’s interests. Retrieved on 07/01/2022 from In-depth reviews of strategic areas for Europe’s interests | European Commission (europa.eu)
· European Commission. (2021). Industrial policy dialogue and expert advice. Retrieved on 23/12/2021 from Industrial policy dialogue and expert advice (europa.eu)
· European Commission. (2021). Industrial Forum advances work on the implementation of the EU’s Updated Industrial Strategy. Retrieved on 23/12/2021 from Industrial Forum advances work on the implementation of the EU’s Updated Industrial Strategy (europa.eu)