The European Commission is to publish a manufacturing technology action plan before the end of 2003. Committed to ensuring the competitiveness of Europe's manufacturing sector, the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research was designed to encourage innovative approaches in high technology areas. It uses funding instruments intended to achieve critical mass and lasting effect. However, response to the programme's initial calls for proposals was rather more muted than the Commission had hoped for. 'A reluctance among mature industries to abandon traditional approaches to research organisation seems to have led to under-representation of the production sector in the first main FP6 call for the new funding instruments - Integrated Projects and Networks of Excellence - In December 2002,' admits a Commission statement. 'The Commission sees a major role for further education and encouragement to overcome this lack of enthusiasm,' the statement continues. However, bids from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were plentiful, and requested funding amounted to four times the 40 million euro budget available. While mid to long term industrial goals will be the main focus of the action plan, it also pledges to encourage such interest from SMEs with measures recognising that they tend to operate in shorter time frames. The final content of the action plan will be decided at a conference in December, to which key figures from research, education, industry, public administration, financing, social sciences and the media will be invited. The conference will seek to identify the pattern of change in industrial sectors on which European integrated action should concentrate in order to ensure competitiveness and sustainability, and to identify research priorities so as to promote the development of knowledge production systems. Participants at the conference will also discuss the skills required in the context of knowledge-based industrial systems, and, ultimately, will define a common vision for action with regard to manufacturing technologies.