Ten take-aways from the Orgalime General Assembly

 

The Orgalime General Assembly in Brussels on 17 and 18 November brought the European engineering community together to discuss the pressing issues affecting our industry. The action-packed agenda featured committee meetings for key policy areas, a communications working group, and plenty of opportunities for participants to exchange news and views on challenges on the ground in their home countries.

The public session on Thursday afternoon provided a chance to hear policymakers and leading industry figures give their take on current issues. A keynote speech on EU industrial and digitisation policies from Antti Peltomäki of the European Commission kicked off proceedings, following which association President Tomas Hedenborg presented Orgalime’s Vision Paper Update. Finally, the debate heated up at not one but two panels on the fallout from the Brexit vote – and the impact on the European engineering sector. Here are ten things we learned…

 

1. The engineering sector remains the motor of the European economy, with output and employment rising again this year. But European industry is still massively underinvesting compared to before the financial crisis. Growth is much needed but in too short supply.

2. The digitisation of industry will be key to crucial to delivering this growth. But the transformation will involve much more than tweaking legislation here and there: it’s about getting the message across to the grass roots.

3. Some worrying developments are unfolding at EU level. Economic nationalism is on the rise, the internal market is being undermined, and the Commission seems to be taking back seat in core areas of its competency. Orgalime’s message was clear: we need more Europe – and better Commission leadership and governance.

4. It’s time for some joined-up thinking in industrial policy: the right framework for European engineering must strike a balance across regulatory and policy areas – from the internal market and Energy Union, to investment and digitisation, to R&D, innovation, trade and beyond.

5. When it comes to Brexit, the only thing that is certain is… that nothing is yet certain. Our panellists shared their insights on what was at stake – but none felt confident enough to predict what form the UK’s break with the EU might take.

6. Unfortunately, uncertainty is the last thing companies need in today’s volatile environment. A number of speakers voiced concern at the lack of clarity, regarding both the shape of a deal and the time it will take to hammer one out.

7. The UK’s engineering sector is starting to feel the effects: speakers told of cost bases rising by as much as 10 percent since the vote to leave, and of investments that have been put on ice or have already gone elsewhere.

8. From multinationals to SMEs, industry players strongly support a solution that will maintain close ties with(in) the single market – and are getting ready to fight at every opportunity to minimise the impact of Brexit on the engineering sector.

9. Trade associations will have a key role to play in advocating for a EU-UK deal that will curtail collateral damage for the British and wider European engineering industry – in the words of one speaker, a Brexit that even if not smooth, is “at least less bumpy than it would otherwise be”.

10. Colouring is therapeutic! Our colouring wall added some creative yin to the rational yang of the afternoon’s debates. And the final product spoke volumes: when we come together to pursue our goals, the future of European engineering looks very bright indeed!

For more pictures from the General Assembly, check out our Flickr gallery.

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