High level EU group to identify key enabling technologies

14 Jul 2010

A high level EU expert group, including Intel’s Jim O’Hara, representing the semiconductor industry, has been appointed to advise the European Commission on the key technologies that will impact over the next five to 10 years.

The remarkable fact is that most of these technologies – described by the EU as key enabling technologies – whose impact could be as great as the internet, the TV and the mobile phone, have not yet been invented but will change our lives in the next decade.

European Commission vice-presidents Antonio Tajani, Neelie Kroes and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn launched the high-level expert group on key enabling technologies yesterday.

The group will be led by its president Jean Therme, director of the French Atomic Energy Commission in Grenoble, and includes key players in the European technology and scientific sectors, including the general manager of Intel in Ireland, Jim O’Hara.

Key enabling technologies, such as nanotechnology, micro- and nanoelectronics, including semiconductors, advanced materials, biotechnology and photonics, are of exceptional importance for shaping the industrial future of the EU. The work of this group will eventually contribute to a European strategy for the industrial deployment of such technologies.

Antonio Tajani, who is also Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Most of the goods and services that will be available in five to 10 years are yet unknown, but surely they will be based on key enabling technologies.

“The advice of the high-level expert group as to how to deploy these key enabling technologies is crucial for the renewal of our industrial base. The work of this group is another tool with which the EU can achieve its Europe 2020 objectives,” Tajani said.

Key enabling technologies are of systemic importance to our economies and bear enormous market potentials, Tajani added.

The global market volume of nanotechnology, micro- and nanoelectronics, industrial biotechnology, photonics, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing systems, is estimated by experts at about €500bn-€570bn annually.

The expected annual growth rates range between 5pc and 46pc. In comparison, the market volume of established industries, such as electronics, automotive, chemicals or pharmaceuticals, generates between €1,000bn-€1,800bn each, every year in global sales.

The EU said it needs to work on policy measures to ensure that key enabling technologies are commercialised effectively and the results of its own R&D are successfully capitalised.

The mandate of the high-level expert group is to develop a shared long-term strategy on how to improve the deployment of key enabling technologies at European level. Based on this work, the Commission will report back to the Council and the European Parliament in 2011.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years