At the International Manufacturing Conference in UCD, Dr Liam Brown warned that Europe is no longer a leader in KETs and securing industrial benefits through these technologies and PPPs is vital to economic resurgence


Dr Liam Brown, Enterprise Ireland National Delegate for the NMP Thematic Area within Horizon 2020, spoke at this year’s IMC30 conference on ‘EU Advanced Manufacturing Funding through Horizon 2020 – Key Enabling Technologies’. 

Horizon 2020, the EU’s €70 billion research and development programme, is due to launch in early December and will provide extensive support to European industry. The EU’s industrial sector, which employs with more than 32 million people and accounts for 80 per cent of innovations, is the main source of growth and job creation.

The successful deployment of key enabling technologies (KETs) by industry is a key factor in strengthening Europe’s competitiveness, in particular in what concerns industrial productivity and innovation capacity. One of the goals of Horizon 2020 is to capture a large share of the rapidly expanding markets of KETs – to ensure the best use of these technologies in order to generate value across the economy and enable innovative solutions to societal challenges.

Europe has identified six key enabling technologies:

  • ICT (micro- and nano electronics);
  • Nanotechnologies;
  • Photonics;
  • Advanced materials;
  • Biotechnology; and
  • Advanced manufacturing and processing.

These KETs are of exceptional importance for shaping the future innovation and competitiveness of the EU. The global market in KETs is forecast to grow from about €650 billion in 2008 to over €1 trillion in 2015. World-leading industries in the fields of automotive, chemicals, aeronautics, space, health and energy are all users of KETs.

The EU commission is championing the industrial deployment of European KETs to keep pace with our main international competitors, restore growth, create jobs and help address today’s major societal challenges. Six challenges have been identified by European stakeholders and these form the main funding pillar of Horizon 2020. These include:

  • Health, demographic change and wellbeing;
  • Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials;
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy;
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bio-economy;
  • Smart, green and integrated transport; and
  • Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.


Mastering key enabling technologies means being at the forefront of managing the shift to a low carbon, knowledge-based economy. They play an important role in the R&D, innovation and cluster strategies of many industries and are regarded as crucial for ensuring the competitiveness of European industries in the knowledge economy.

These technologies enable the development of new goods and services and the restructuring of industrial processes needed to modernise EU industry and make the transition to a knowledge-based and low carbon resource-efficient economy.

While the EU has very good research and development capacities in some KET areas, it has not been as successful at translating research results into commercialised manufactured goods and services. Key enabling technologies are of systemic relevance, as they enable the development of new goods and services and the restructuring of industrial processes needed to modernise EU industry and secure the research, development and innovation base in Europe.

Examples of KET-based products are high-efficiency photonic light-emitting diodes; advanced batteries combining advanced materials and nanotechnologies for electro-mobility; biochips combining advanced materials, nanoelectronics and photonics to detect diseases; low-friction car tyres based on industrial biotechnology; and nanocomponents issued from nanoelectronics for mobile phones.


Europe is a global leader in KETs research and development, with a global share in patent applications of more than 30 per cent. Despite this, the European Union is not translating its dominant R&D base into the production of goods and services needed to stimulate growth and jobs.

This is why the European Commission called in June 2012 for a European effort to boost KETs (1). The importance of key enabling technologies in delivering sustainable growth, creating high-value jobs and solving societal challenges has also been underlined in the reinforced industrial policy communication of October 2012 (2).

At the International Manufacturing Conference, held in University College Dublin earlier this month, Dr Liam Brown of Enterprise Ireland, one of Ireland’s national delegates for the European Commission’s Horizon 2020, programme cautioned that Europe is losing its industrial base in key sectors.

The ‘three pillars’ to cross the ‘valley of death’ (click to enlarge)

He defined KETs as “crucial to smart, sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth”, but warned that Europe is no longer a KETs innovation leader. To counter this, Dr Brown presented the recommendation of the EU commission’s KETs High-Level Group for a three-pillar bridge to pass across what he called “the valley of death” based on technological facilities, pilot line deployment and globally competitive manufacturing facilities.

Brown outlined the Enterprise Ireland supports for research and development and had a number of take-home messages for delegates to the conference, including the need for “more innovation and collaboration between industry and research to create growth and jobs”. There was also a need for “strategic investments in key technologies”, he said, leveraging from the European investment in research and innovation and “the crucial importance of building enabling skills through professional engineers”.

In conjunction with addressing the societal challenges, Horizon 2020 will have a significant focus on excellent science and industrial leadership through various KET initiatives, particularly those at advanced technology readiness levels (TRLs) supporting demonstration and pilot builds.


There will also be support for cross-cutting KET actions, given the potential of combinations of different key enabling technologies to create unforeseen advances and new markets. Activities will address the whole innovation chain, with technology readiness levels spanning from the low end to highest levels preceding mass production.

For the high technology readiness levels, dedicated support will be provided for larger-scale pilot lines and demonstrator projects to facilitate industrial take-up and commercialisation. In addition, there will be a strong focus on the contribution of key enabling technologies to societal challenges.

Research public-private partnerships (PPPs) are vehicles to implement technological roadmaps in particular areas and achieve leverage of private funding. They are implemented through joint technology initiatives or dedicated calls for proposals or topics (contractual PPPs) and include:

  • Factories of the future and sustainable process industries (SPIRE) where the aim is to improve competitiveness through resource and energy efficiency; and
  • Flexibility of production and customisation of products through new high-tech manufacturing processes; and addressing the human dimension.
This year’s IMC30 Conference took place in UCD earlier this month, showcasing research undertaken in academia and industry by postgraduate students and experienced researchers in manufacturing engineering domains. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Professional Development of Engineers for Advanced Manufacturing’.

It was chosen having regard to recent reports commissioned on manufacturing, such as the recent Research Prioritisation Report and the stated need in developed economies for differentiation through knowledge-based product-service and business process innovation. In manufacturing industry specifically, competitive advantage must be engineered into mass-customised products and flexible manufacturing systems and processes by teams who are highly dependent on the excellence of the manufacturing engineering discipline.

For further details on Horizon 2020 and the EU commission’s KETs initiative, contact Liam Brown at +353-61-777047, email or visit the website.


(1) COM(2012) 341, A European Strategy for Key Enabling Technologies – A bridge to growth and jobs

(2) COM(2012) 582, A Stronger European Industry for Growth and Economic Recovery O'RiordanMechEnterprise Ireland,European Union,innovation,jobs,manufacturing
  Dr Liam Brown, Enterprise Ireland National Delegate for the NMP Thematic Area within Horizon 2020, spoke at this year's IMC30 conference on 'EU Advanced Manufacturing Funding through Horizon 2020 - Key Enabling Technologies’.  Horizon 2020, the EU’s €70 billion research and development programme, is due to launch in early December...