martes, 1 de abril de 2014

Tridimensional long-term industrialisation plans

A consequence of the economic crisis we are still living is the revaluation of industry and its value as leverage for growth. The industry has shown more resilence as a source of employment and, therefore, there is an apparently firm commitment in Europe and other advanced areas to promote a reindustrialisation of the economy. And it is really needed, because as started the EU industry strategy, although it has shown its resilience it has lost weight in the EU GNP (from 15,4% in 2008 to 15,1% in 2012).  Not surprising that those who has managed to stop this decline as Germany has also been less impacted by unemployment.

In order to maintain or recover the industrial power, several countries and multinational organisations have developed long-term strategies. The European Union, mentioned above, is not the only case. Japan has include a Plan for the Revitalization of Japanese Industry as one of the three axis of its new growth strategy, United Kingdom also has included and Industrial Strategy as part of its Plan for Growth and there are other cases around the developed countries. Some common trends could be identified in all of them, as the importance given to ICTs, skills and capability building (e.g European Commission has included Industry-led training as a principle for National Coalitions for Digital Jobs) or the promotion of enterpreneurship. Long-term investment plans are increasingly look as the tool for the implementation of these reindustrialisation strategy. Plans that are a collection of projects that sum up a big budget in order to tackle at the same time the productivity problem and the challenge to discover new sources of industrial growth.

The answer takes the shape of the development of an industrial dimension for the digital policies. The promotión of this dimension through a collection of projects oriented to boost the digital revolution in the industry. Why this is needed in the European Union? Some reasons could be found in the executive summary of the "European Competitive Report 2013". On one hand, during the economic crisis, productivity in Europe has decreased 1% while in the USA has increased 4%. On the other hand, more than 40% of manufacturing employment in Europe is in low-tech industries. It is more than clear that somthing need to be done.

The traditional approach to the design of long-term investment plans has been a two-dimension approach. To begin with,  policy-makers choose the industrial sectors they think that are in need to be boosted. Afterwards, they conduct a research in order to discover which are the future key technology enablers for each sector. This have worked in the past, but nowadays ICT has become the general purpose technology for every industrial sector. We need to introduce a third dimension that reduces the number of key technologies to be researched its application for each sector and at the same time helps to combine several sectors for finding sinergies among them. This dimension is no other than the human factor, the challenges we face as a society.

A third dimensional approach to long-term plan of industrial investments has other advantages. The societal challenge dimension provide us with an inmediate area for the aplication of the R&D efforts, a more inmediate path to reurn of investments that foster the collaboration of the private sector in the reindustrialisation objective (and its worth to remember that the low private contribution to R&D in Europe in comparison with the USA is another of our problems, 1.5 times less private R&D in Europe).

Building a tridimensional long-investment industrialisation plan is almost impossible to be done by the government alone. An inclusive open government policy making is needed in order to identify, firstly, the societal challenges and secondly how the different sectors and technologies can help to tackle the challenges. Government, as any leadership task, it should not be a solitary task. But this is more compulsory when the stones in the path towards the future are being laying.

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