European electronic industry key programs
by Bernard BISMUTH, President du GFIE
Nov 15, 2004
The European electronics, driver of the economic growth, has been deeply affected by the dramatic crisis of activity, mainly in the telecommunication sector. Urgent action is necessary to restore its leading position on the worldwide market, specifically through an ambitious industrial policy.
What happened in the last 4 years?
- Our industry had reached a level which had never been experienced in the past.
- The development of telecoms had given birth to a multitude of companies, and investors which entered a terrific competition.
- At the same time, the nationalistic protection ceased 'politically correct' and the emerging countries were becoming significant players.
- We all know how drastic and violent the fall was.
Just for information: the Electronics/digital industries in France were employing 500.0000 people in 1992 against 220.000 today. If no action is taken, we should go down to 100.000 in 2008. As an example, the number of PCB manufacturers in France as well as the number of jobs in that industry has been divided by 3 in 10 years. This trend could be, with some variances, extended to most of European countries.
I don't need to remind you how the move of manufacturing units towards cheaper countries and mainly Far Eastern countries has impacted on the manufacturing scenery in Western Europe.
A new Industrial Policy for Europe
How can Europe overcome the consequences in terms of unemployment, loss of leading position, innovation and manufacturing capabilities? In the past 20 to 30 years the governments launched basic programs which generated substantial industrial activities.
Let me mention, as examples, nuclear power stations, high speed train, Minitel, Airbus, and Ariane as well as military programs which have declined for well known reasons after the end of the Cold War.
Now, it appears that the European governments do not drive any real industrial strategy, while other parts of the world increase their support to R/D programs.
We need a new industrial ambition for Europe.
This policy should aim to generate a limited number of very ambitious projects, similar to those implemented twenty years ago. Thanks to these projects of the past decades, involving huge public and private capabilities and resources, the European electronics industries took a leading position in strategic areas and in high-end technologies.
Innovation, a key factor
Innovation and R&D are key factors of competitiveness. There is an obvious necessity for strong public support at national and European level, to give chances to the industries to compete successfully in the world market. Financial support to R&D should be equivalent to the help given to competitors by their relevant governments.
The R & D support should address the whole design and production chain, in order to reduce the threat of migration of design and R&D after migration of production facilities. Strengthening the European capabilities in the various elements of the added value of final products should be the key objective.
The chain should include the R&D on manufacturing and processes and not only on the innovation in the product. We have all seen now that by losing the production, we will sooner or later lose the product and the conception.
Keeping production in Europe
Maintaining technical competences and production facilities in France and in Europe is a strategic must for the electronics industry and for the economy. Thus, more flexibility should be given to the companies, enabling them to adapt their personnel to the market situation.
We do not ask for protectionism; we understand that all large volume, consumers products will be manufactured in the cheapest countries.
Migration of Electronics manufacturing is supported by the countries which see it coming to them. In the same spirit we have to be supported in Europe for the part of the manufacturing for which we can stay competitive thanks to our technology, our flexibility or our proximity.
A "Blue Print" of Key programmes
In France we have created an informal group gathering 8 electronic and digital professional associations, which represent 1,100 companies with 50 billions Euros in sales:
- Telecom/information systems (Alliance TICS)
- Production equipment and materials (GFIE)
- Passive components (GIXEL)
- Active components, semi-conductors (SITELESC)
- Contract manufacturers (SNESE)
- Measurement and test (SIMTEC)
- Distribution (SPDEI)
- Cables and wires (SYCABEL)
This group representing the French electronics and digital industries have drawn up a "Blue Print" of proposed key programmes, encompassing R&D and industrial objectives, enabling Europe to take or to keep the lead in driving technologies and services for the economic growth of the next decades.
Eight key programmes and technologies which could be considered as priority by French and European Authorities have been selected and these projects are based on electronics and at same time bring to our citizens a better life:
High speed internet
In order to maximize the territory coverage through all available technologies (Cable, Optical fiber, Satellite, Wifi, Wimax...)
High Definition TV
With positive developments in semiconductors, screens, demodulators, antennas... software, programs etc....
To minimize road accidents rate, optimize driver's comfort and security, reduce gas consumption and environment pollution.
Concerning: communication networks, smart card, GPS and Galileo, remote survey, access control, terrorism tracing.
Including connecting systems which could be used in every day life for all kinds of transactions, administrative link, medical files...
To improve comfort, individual security, CO2 reduction, and energy saving, especially now when price of oil reaches unusual level.
In line health control
Allowing close and immediate connections between different medical and chirurgical centres, improving efficiency of medical treatments, and avoiding superfluous expenses.
Micro and Nano technologies
Which are the base to successfully complete the above programs, and to keep the know-how and expertise in Europe.
A European consensus
These proposals result from a task undertaken by the leading companies of the Electronics industry sectors: telecommunications, automotive, electronic consumer goods, defence and aeronautics, electrical engineering...
The European dimension is necessary to ensure the success of this lobby: the European electronics and digital industries suffer from the same impact of the telecommunication crisis, and thus it should forward the same messages towards the national governments and the EC.
Finally we insist on the absolute obligation to keep manufacturing capabilities locally, close to design units, at least for high tech and sophisticated production process and for small volumes, quick deliveries or for products being quickly modified.
This means that productivity improvement, through R&D programs and educational trainings should be our major concern.
If I am speaking to all of you today on behalf of my colleagues of the French Electronics Industry, it is in order to ask you to take the same action with all your governments in getting an European consensus for having an industrial policy.
My colleagues are now doing the same thing in their own field and have started to contact the other groups in Europe.
Thanks for your listening.
Bernard BISMUTH, President du GFIE
Au nom de la Filiere Electronique