EU partnership to help car industry adapt to change

The European Commission has launched a new partnership to help the EU’s automotive industry better anticipate and manage change in the face of global challenges.

The industry is an important pillar of the European economy, providing 12 million jobs and accounting for 3% of the EU GDP. It is also the largest private research and development (R&D)
investor in Europe, ploughing over ?20 billion into innovation every year. But the sector is facing diverse challenges, including growing international competition, changing societal demands
related to mobility, environmental concerns, road safety, shifts in demand around the world and skills shortages due to an ageing workforce.

’12 million European families depend on the automotive sector for their livelihoods,’ said Employment Commissioner Vladimír Spidla at a high-level forum on restructuring in Brussels.
‘While the sector faces tough challenges such as globalisation, there are also big opportunities. This partnership commits companies, trade unions, governments and regions to act together to
better prepare for change and manage it in a proactive way.’

‘The car industry is a key source of prosperity, employment and innovation in the EU,’ added Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry. ‘We need
to ensure competitiveness and employment in this strategic industry while sustaining further progress in safety and environmental performance at a price affordable to the consumer.’

The aim of the high-level ‘Restructuring Forum’ is to promote a joint declaration on a ‘European partnership for the anticipation of change in the automotive industry’. The declaration,
subscribed to by the economic and social players of the sector, commits public and private partners to a series of concrete actions. These include:
– monitoring change in the automobile industry, including employment and skills needs;
– collecting and exchanging best practices on socially responsible restructuring;
– better use of funding such as that from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the European Social Fund to support anticipation and adaptation to change.

For Lars Holmqvist, CEO of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), the only way the European automotive industry can stay competitive is to focus on its technological
advantage and take advantage of the opportunities available under FP7.

‘If we don’t look at technology and build on this strength Europe has, then we will not stay competitive in the global marketplace,’ he told CORDIS News.

According to Mr Holmqvist, the responsibility of researching and developing new technologies such as eCall and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems is increasingly on the shoulders of
automotive suppliers.

CLEPA has therefore published a strategic research agenda presenting four key research priority areas for keeping Europe’s automotive sector sustainable and competitive. These are: mobility,
energy and the environment, safety and security, and materials and design.

The next big issue for Mr Holmqvist is financing and access to capital for R&D financing. He pointed to the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), a new financial instrument, jointly
launched by the European Commission and European Investment Bank (EIB), as a solution. The RSFF is a ?1 billion fund designed to improve access to financing for the promoters of research and
innovation projects.

The Restructuring Forum will finish on 18 October with the adoption of the new Partnership Declaration.

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