The March 2000 Lisbon European Council set the objective of making the EU ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’. This ambitious target cannot be met without the continuing presence of a strong and competitive manufacturing sector. Growing numbers of jobs in manufacturing related services and in the service sector in general have been compensating for the loss in direct manufacturing employment. However, the EU industry is currently under significant competitive pressures from developed and low-wage economies alike (MANUFUTURE - In the high-tech sector, other developed economies pose the greatest threat. In more mature traditional sectors, manufacturing is increasingly migrating to low-wage countries such as China and India.


Modern manufacturing includes all intermediate processes required for the production and integration of a product's components, thus despite the great potential, European manufacturing success will depend upon continuous innovation in products and processes. In addition increased commitment from the private and public sectors, it is essential to address challenges such as the shortening life cycle of enabling technologies, environmental and sustainability issues, as well as the socio-economic situation. The creation of a European Research Area (ERA) for industrial technologies is seen as the way to involve all Member States in meeting the interlinked challenges.