The EU is creating a Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) to support key technologies and strengthen European sovereignty.
Why does the EU need to invest in technologies?
One of the EU’s main strategic goals is to strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy by supporting its change in line with the green and digital transformations. However, in recent years the EU industry is being challenged by high inflation, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, rising interest rates, and spikes in energy prices.
In addition, global competition is growing, especially in technologies that are the essential for the ongoing economic transformation, such as artificial intelligence, 5G, semiconductors, green technologies and biotechnologies.
This is why the EU should take a more structural approach to the significant investment needs of its industries.
What is the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform?
In June 2023, the European Commission presented the mid-term revision of the EU’s budget for 2021-2027. As a part of the package, it proposed the establishment of the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform. The Platform is an instrument to develop critical emerging technologies that are relevant to the green and digital transitions and to the strategic sovereignty of the EU.
The Platform would aim to boost the manufacturing capacity in digital technologies (for example microelectronics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and 5G), clean technologies (such as renewable energy, electricity and heat storage, renewable fuels of non-biological origin, sustainable alternative fuels) and biotechnologies (like biomolecules, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies etc.). It would also aim to strengthen value chains and address labour and skill shortages in these sectors.
How will the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform work?
According to the Commission proposal, the Platform would redirect funds under existing EU instruments as well as use additional €10 billion to reinforce programmes such as InvestEU, Horizon Europe, the Innovation Fund, and the European Defence Fund.
A new EU quality label Sovereignty seal will be awarded to high-quality projects contributing to the Platform’s objectives. This should give them visibility and attract public and private investments.
What do MEPs propose?
In October 2023, Parliament’s industry and budgets committees adopted a report on the establishment of the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform .
MEPs aimed to strengthen the initiative so that it can better support EU industry. Their proposals include:
- An extra €3 billion on top of the proposed €10 billion, bringing the new funds under the Platform to €13 billion .
- A closer alignment of this regulation with other legislative acts aiming to boost industrial competitiveness – the Net-Zero Industry Act and the Critical Raw Materials Act
The establishment of a committee to ensure effective implementation of the initiative.
- An evaluation by the European Commission by 2025
In addition the establishment of a fully-fledged Sovereignty Fund to support strategic industries should be considered for the next EU long-term budget after 2027.
“STEP was once foreseen to be the new European Sovereignty Fund – but it is not,” said Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany), the lead MEP for the industry committee. “We have improved the text significantly and created legislative coherence with other dossiers, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act and the Critical Raw Materials Act.”
“STEP is a starting point to properly support technologies made in Europe. European technologies must have access to better funding opportunities. Much-needed EU strategic autonomy can only be achieved by addressing the needs of our industries”, said José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, Portugal), the lead MEP for the budgets committee.
Parliament is expected to vote on the establishment of the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform in mid-October. The report would then form Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council.
The MEPs insist that the Platform, along with the revision of the EU’s long-term budget, should be negotiated as a package and should have an impact on the EU’s budget for 2024.