main challenges facing the textiles industry are
connected to research; innovation and workers'
skills and qualifications, said Günter
Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry,
speaking at a meeting of the Textiles High Level
Group (THLG) on 15 June.
Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for Science and Research, called on the European
textiles sector to restructure and become more competitive following the abolition
of textile quotas on 1 January 2005. In return, he added, the Commission will
continue to support, in part through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7),
the research initiatives of the sector, particularly the Technology Platform.
'I believe that the EU textile industry can thrive if it continues to invest
in new production processes and materials, in innovative design and manufacturing
systems and in training and skills,' said Mr Potocnik. 'To achieve such a transformation,
investment is needed in technological innovation that would assist industry
in its transition from a resource intensive to a knowledge intensive industry.'
A recent deal between Beijing and Brussels has curbed a surge in Chinese textile
imports into Europe, with China agreeing to limit the growth of ten Chinese
textile imports to the EU to between 8.5 to12.5 per cent until the end of 2007.
'The industry should now use this additional time to focus on and invest in
the future and move up the value chain through innovation, restructuring, research
and investment in skills,' said Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
At the meeting, the Textiles High Level Group identified a number of objectives
to achieve these goals. In terms of innovation, the new strategic research
objective on 'ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] for networked
businesses' will be promoted, as will be the collaboration schemes with the
Innovation Relay Centres and the National Patent and Trademark Offices. In
terms of research, the focus will be on technical textiles with high added
value content, to develop new markets in construction, protective clothing
and medical uses. For education and training, actions under the Leonardo da
Vinci programme to develop common European qualification standards will be
As Mr Potocnik explained, the transformation and modernisation of the industry
has already started. In terms of integrating research efforts at European level,
for example, a large number of projects were submitted under FP6 and those
selected for funding are receiving a total of 41 million euro. The Commission
is presently supporting efforts to develop breakthrough technologies to improve
the productivity of the apparel manufacturing; solutions in cutting and sewing
systems; eco-efficient processes and novel processes such as the combination
of nanotechnology and plasma surface engineering for new generation textiles;
and technologically-advanced textiles with applications in medical, automotive,
aviation and aerospace industries.
In terms of FP7, Mr Potocnik explained that 'the strong industry involvement
in platforms is particularly important for identifying the research priorities
for collaborative research covered by theme four (nanotechnologies, materials
and new production technologies) of the Seventh Framework Programme, aimed
at developing high added value products and services.'
Concluding the meeting, Commissioners Verheugen and Potocnik re-iterated their
decision to jointly support the industry.
'Despite the current challenges to the textile and clothing sector caused by
the recent major increase in imports from China, we must not allow ourselves
to be distracted from the wider picture. Let us continue together to implement
our industrial strategy of focusing on and improving the competitive strengths
of the European textile and clothing sector,' concluded Mr Verheugen.
RTD-NEWS/© European Communities