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18 July 2016
Enterprise and industry
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EU ministers and Commissioners discussed 'Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Europe´s Industry and Enterprises'

Bratislava (18 July) - The first informal meeting of the ministers responsible for competitiveness within the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union was held today in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. Heads of ministries dealing with issues of strengthening the Single Market and the Digital Single Market for companies, citizens and consumers and boosting the competitiveness of European industry discussed a shared vision to support the digitisation of companies and businesses in the EU. They agreed that one way of promoting innovation is to create the right conditions for investors and new business models.

Ministers underlined the importance of public-private partnerships as a mechanism for promoting innovation in areas with high potential, and of adapting existing and new investment mechanisms as part of the 'Smart Money' concept. The ministers also agreed on sharing best practices in existing networks of innovation nodes called Innovation Hubs, and agreed on working together to enhance regional and national digital innovation capacity. 'The aim of the informal meeting of ministers responsible for competitiveness was a constructive discussion of a shared vision and arrangements to stimulate investment, create favourable conditions and accelerate the improvement of skills of the workforce in the EU so as to reflect the needs of industry. Europe has the opportunity to support growth through this intelligent transformation and Slovakia will use its chairmanship role to assist the Council in carrying out this transformation', said Minister of Economy Peter Žiga, who led the meeting.

On the topic of preparedness of the EU workforce for future trends, ministers discussed the lack of (not only digital) skills in a range of industries, and also the necessary steps to ensure the right skills for the needs of industry. Ministers concluded that the lack of skills in the labour market was a major obstacle to the introduction of digital and new technologies across the EU. The heads of ministries also highlighted the necessity to do more to improve forecasting of trends and analysis of the needs of industry.

Minister Peter Žiga reminded participants of the outcome of the Council of 26 May 2016, which included the importance of swift implementation of the joint vision that seeks to capture all the benefits associated with the digitisation industry. Successful business models and the improvement of production processes supported by digital technologies will generate new international market opportunities. Europe must fully seize these opportunities to become more competitive and offer better opportunities for investment and business. 'Today, approximately one third of the total growth of industrial production in the EU is linked to the introduction of digital technologies', emphasised Minister Žiga. He also noted that digitisation products and services have the potential to bring more than € 110 billion in revenue to Europe per year over the next 5 years. This intelligent transformation of industry represents a huge growth potential for Europe. Therefore, it is important to act immediately in order to maintain competitiveness in the global market and take a leading role in the modern environment of the digital economy. That is why accelerating the digital transformation of European industry and businesses was a key theme at the informal meeting of ministers.

The agenda of Monday's meeting was an interactive tour of 'Digital Compass', which focused on the market opportunities of new technologies, regulatory and social impacts, the impact on the labour market and skills requirements, as well as issues relating to investment and financing innovations. As part of the illustration of the effects of the current industrial transformation ministers were given the opportunity to try out new technologies, including virtual reality, robotics, cyber security, education in the field of technologies, 3D printing, processing Big Data and UAVs. Representatives of the companies on display also warned ministers about the opportunities and challenges they must face.

After the exhibition of technologies a meeting of two parallel groups on topics  'The mobilisation of investment in the transformation of EU industry' and 'Preparedness of the workforce in the EU for future trends'  took place.

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