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Article écrit par :

Tiana Ramahandry

Responsable de la communauté Disruptive Technologies

Emarildo Bani

Consultant

Published in December 2021, this study was commissioned by the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) and managed by the Scientific Foresight Unit, within the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) of the Secretariat of the European Parliament, under the responsibility of Nera Kuljanic. IDATE DigiWorld led this mission and highly contributed to the writing of the report in collaboration with its partners ECORYS, and Fraunhofer FOKUS, research institute.

Europe’s journey towards technological sovereignty

Technological sovereignty has been at the heart of political debates in the EU for years. Interest has been strengthened by the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, impacting more many value chains.

As no common definition of sovereignty exists, the one devised for that study aims to reconcile the various approaches among stakeholders and resulted in “The ability for to develop, provide, protect and retain the critical technologies required and the ability to act and decide independently in a globalised environment”. It encompasses three key elements: technological, economic and regulatory.

The value of KETs for Europe’s technological sovereignty

The 6 KETs – advanced manufacturing, advanced materials and nanomaterials, life science technologies, micro/nano-electronics and photonics, artificial intelligence, security and connectivity technologies – that have been identified as crucial for an interconnected, digitalised, resilient, healthier European society, and for EU’s competitiveness, have been explored in the study.

Four key challenges came out that are essential for Europe to address to master the KETs:

  • Lack of critical resourcesraw materials,
  • Dependence on non-European suppliers,
  • Lack of relevant digital skills (risk of drain on technological expertise),
  • Low commercialisation of research results.

Indicators have been defined to reflect EU performance with respect to the proposed definition of technological sovereignty.

Current position of Europe in technological sovereignty

Europe has made strong efforts to support the development of KETs, which are highlighted by dedicated investment programmes, research successes resulting in patents, and a competitive start-up ecosystem. The Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research and innovation program that has invested around €8 billion in KETs in the 2014-2020 period. Moreover, the digital Europe programme budget is set to invest €7.5 billion in 2021-2027 to further facilitate the wide deployment of digital technologies and complement Horizon Europe. However, when it comes to the six KETs and Europe’s technological  sovereignty, the results also show that Europe lags behind China and the US, due to a lack of R&D funding (especially from the private sector), a lack of qualified skills in technology and an absence of leading positions in KET-related industries.

Policy options to reach Europe’s technological sovereignty

A total of 25 options are suggested in the study to reach the common goal of achieving Europe’s technological sovereignty. A new EU strategy for KETs based on an institutionalised policy dialogue could help to coordinate EU and Member States’ strategies and lead to an increased awareness and reinforced commitments. Specific measures to address the four challenges listed above are also suggested in the study to contribute to improving the access of raw materials, reducing dependence on non-European suppliers, acquiring adequate skills and turning scientific results into commercial products. The study notably recommends to finance European companies in KET domains with the aim of creating European champions for global markets.