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FAST report: The future of industry in Europe

The Community research programme on forecasting and assessment in science and technology, FAST (1989-1993), has recently made available the results of a study on the future of industry in Europe (FINE project). The objective of the FAST programme was to conduct a global analy...

The Community research programme on forecasting and assessment in science and technology, FAST (1989-1993), has recently made available the results of a study on the future of industry in Europe (FINE project). The objective of the FAST programme was to conduct a global analysis of the long-term effects of scientific and technological development and their interactions with the social and economic changes in the European Union and world-wide, with particular attention to the achievement of the internal market, the improvement of industrial competitivity and the reinforcement of social and economic cohesion in the Community. The FINE project involved networks of industrialists, scientists and experts from Europe, Japan and the United States, whose contributions provided the basic expert knowledge for the study. Discussions took place in several workshops during 1993, and a final synthesis was produced by the German Institut Arbeit und Technic (IAT). This report considers that industry in Europe has to master difficult transition processes, as it is driven by rapid changes in global dimensions, and threatened by high structural unemployment and the deterioration of environmental conditions. To succeed in this effort, it must: - Regain and secure competitiveness and proceed to technologically intensive and knowledge-based production; - Strive for environmental sustainability and the development of economic solutions for environmental and social problems; - Develop existing markets in new directions and create new markets in order to secure employment and growth in Europe. The synthesis is divided into six parts, each focusing on a particular topic. These include: The principle conclusions of the project; markets and technologies; industries and enterprises; employment, work and welfare; science and technology; industrial policy. Subjects considered in the 235-page report include: - Competitiveness; - Active policies to counter exhaustion; - Technology-led diversification; - Advanced production systems; - Education and training programmes; - Innovating the innovative system. A number of policy recommendations are made concerning : European initiatives for high productivity; an initiative for intelligent production systems; centres of excellence; reorganization of Community RTD policy (establishment of networks for the rapid developmen and application of new technologies in widely defined fields); initiating a new techno-culture; the environmental targeting of public procurement; a European RTD programme for an environmental industry; measures to support diversification; networks for socio-technological diversification; support for collaborative efforts among SMEs; and the creation of nucleii for regional economic expansion. Among its conclusions, the report sets out a new philosophy of growth: Instead of speculating about the limits of growth it is necessary to aim towards problem-solving growth. This philosophy applies to environmental problems as well as to social problems. Such problem-solving growth can only be achieved by making use of the best technology available. Complexity of knowledge and its conversion into new products needs a continuous process which not only challenges science but also the social organization of the innovation process.