Download publication

Blueprint

Manufacturing Europe’s future

‘Manufacturing Europe’s future’ means getting the policies right for firms to grow and prosper. It is not about picking one sector over another, but primarily about setting the right framework conditions for growth, innovation and jobs.

By: , , , , , , , , , and Date: October 1, 2013 Topic: Energy & Climate

edited by Reinhilde Veugelers

Publication Launch ‘Manufacturing Europe’s Future

‘Industrial policy is back!’ This is the message given in the European Commission’s October 2012 communication on industrial policy (COM(2012) 582 final), which seeks to reverse the declining role of the manufacturing industry, and increase its share of European Union GDP from about 16 percent currently to above 20 percent. Historical evidence suggests that the goal is unlikely to be achieved. Manufacturing’s share of GDP has decreased around the world over the last 30 years. Paradoxically, this relative decline has been a reflection of manufacturing’s strength. Higher productivity growth in manufacturing than in the economy overall resulted in relative decline. A strategy to reverse this trend and move to an industrial share of above 20 percent might therefore risk undermining the original strength of industry – higher productivity growth.

This Blueprint therefore takes a different approach. It starts by looking in depth into the manufacturing sector and how it is developing. It emphasises the extent to which European industry has become integrated with other parts of the economy, in particular with the increasingly specialised services sector, and how both sectors depend on each other. It convincingly argues that industrial activity is increasingly spread through global value chains. As a result, employment in the sector has increasingly become highly skilled, while those parts of production for which high skill levels are not needed have been shifted to regions with lower labour costs.

But this splitting up of production is not driving the apparent manufacturing decline.Participation in global value chains within Europe is strongly EU-oriented with a central position for the EU15 and in particular Germany in EU manufacturing. This internationalisationof production has resulted in deeper integration of EU manufacturing,withmember states specialising in sectors according to their comparative advantage.It has therefore helped to raise productivity and growth. As a result, the foreign content of countries’ exports has increased. Germany, in particular, has been able to benefit from the greater possibilities to outsource parts of production to central and eastern Europe and to emerging markets, and is in fact one of the countries with the smallest manufacturing share declines in the last 15 years. The Blueprint also highlights the importance of energy for the structure and specialisation of manufacturing.

Capital-intensive manufacturing faces both urgent challenges and medium-term challenges. In the short-term, one of the most pressing problems is the fragmentation of financial markets in Europe,which undermines access to finance. This affects small to medium-sized firms in particular because they are the most dependent on bank credit. In some southern European countries, even the financing of working capital is endangered. It should therefore be a high priority for policymakers to fix Europe’s banking problems and create better functioning capital markets, including for venture capital.

A second important conclusion is that, given the strong links between innovation,internationalisation and firm productivity, it is important to erase the dividing lines between industrial policy, single market policy, ICT policy and service sector policy. A highly integrated economic system needs a coherent set of policies that aim at improving business conditions everywhere. Attempts to promote one sector at the expense of another one are likely to result in significant inefficiencies and weaker overall growth. Governments are notoriously bad at picking winners. Instead, Europe needs policies that are conducive to a better business climate, less-burdensome regulations and the right framework conditions.

Third, public policies need to be more supportive of industry and other parts of the economy. For example, the education system is of central importance for the economy and needs to be adapted to the needs of modern economies. The single market is important for both manufacturing and services and progress is needed to unleash its potential for growth. Reducing trade barriers is particularly important for industrial firms that increasingly rely in global value chains. Distortions in energy prices are also detrimental to industrial activity and should be avoided.

‘Manufacturing Europe’s future’ therefore means getting the policies right for firms to grow and prosper. It is not about picking one sector over another, but primarily about setting the right framework conditions for growth, innovation and jobs.

Guntram Wolff, Director of Bruegel

Brussels, September 2013

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The EU needs a bold climate strategy

Scientists report that global temperature increases must be limited to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. With global greenhouse gas emissions continuing to increase and rising temperatures driving up the frequency of extreme weather events, the world needs a greater commitment to climate policy.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 19, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

How should the relationship between competition policy and industrial policy evolve in the European Union?

Competition policy aims to ensure that market practices and strategies do not reduce consumer welfare. Industrial policy, meanwhile, aims at securing framework conditions that are favourable to industrial competitiveness, and deals with (sector-specific) production rules as well as the direction of public funds and tax measures. But, how should competition policy and industrial policy interact? Is industrial policy contradicting the aims of competition policy by promoting specific industrial interests?

By: Georgios Petropoulos Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: July 15, 2019
Read article More by this author

Opinion

Europe and the new imperialism

For decades, Europe has served as a steward of the post-war liberal order, ensuring that economic rules are enforced and that national ambitions are subordinated to shared goals within multilateral bodies. But with the United States and China increasingly mixing economics with nationalist foreign-policy agendas, Europe will have to adapt.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: April 3, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director’s Cut: How to make Industry 4.0 work for Europe

Bruegel director Guntram Wolff talks to Padmashree Gehl Sampath, a Berkman Klein fellow at Harvard University, on the consequences of ‘new manufacturing’ for European industrial policymaking.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: April 2, 2019
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Changing relationships between Europe and Africa in the face of technological development – can digitalisation, AI and the platform economy help bridge the gap?

This event will look at digitalisation in Europe and Africa and how this is changing the relationship between the two continents

Speakers: Masood Ahmed, Charles Kenny, Susan Lund, J. Scott Marcus and Amolo Ng’weno Topic: Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: 1 Abbey Gardens, Great College Street, London, SW1P 3SE Date: March 27, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Rethinking industrial policy in the digital age: challenges for Europe

All-day conference about how the European policy-making will have to adapt to the digital transformation.

Speakers: Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Teunis Brosens, Maarten Camps, Lise Fuhr, Padmashree Gehl Sampath, Andreas Geiss, Tony Graziano, Mathew Heim, Thorsten Käseberg, Thomas Kramler, Robert Kroplewski, Timothy Lamb, J. Scott Marcus, Philip Marsden, Jan Mischke, Joakim Reiter, Megan Richards, Valentino Rossi, Marietje Schaake, Reinhilde Veugelers, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 21, 2019
Read article More by this author

Opinion

New EU industrial policy can only succeed with focus on completion of single market and public procurement

France and Germany recently unveiled a manifesto for a European industrial policy fit for the 21st century, sparking a lively debate across the continent. The fundamental idea underpinning the manifesto is a good one: Europe does need an industrial policy to ensure that EU companies remain highly competitive globally, notwithstanding strong competition from China and other big players. However, the Franco-German priorities are unsuitable for the pursuit of this goal.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: March 18, 2019
Read article More by this author

Parliamentary Testimony

European Parliament

Brexit and industry & space policy

Testimony before the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

By: Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: European Parliament, Innovation & Competition Policy, Testimonies Date: September 25, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

World Cup Economics

As we approach the final rounds of the tournament, here are some recent contributions about the economics and economic impact of the World Cup.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 9, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Protecting EU firms without protectionism

Do we need more effective support for EU companies, more targeted to threatened sectors of strategic importance to the EU? Do we need to revise our competition policy rules on state aid to allow for a more strategic industrial policy support? Do we need new policy approaches to prepare for a changing global environment?

Speakers: Vincent Aussilloux, Tomas Baert, Paolo Casini, Gert-Jan Koopman, André Sapir, Reinhilde Veugelers and Focco Vijselaar Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 3, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author

Policy Contribution

Are European firms falling behind in the global corporate research race?

The author looks at how concentrated corporate R&D is in Europe, compared with sales and employment. The US and China are more likely to produce new R&D leaders that take over some of the top positions from incumbent R&D leaders. How is the EU coping with technology shifts and creating the next generation of new leading firms?

By: Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: April 12, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The implications of Blockchain platforms

The disruptive forces of block chain technologies in markets and industries: a European perspective

Speakers: Anna Dimitrova, Julio Faura, Georgios Petropoulos, Johan Pouwelse and Pēteris Zilgalvis Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: February 6, 2018
Load more posts