The European manufacturing sector is known for producing quality goods, but to stay ahead it must constantly innovate. One effective way to achieve this is through a global forum that represents a powerful platform to exchange ideas, meet ideal partners and attract new business. This was the aim of the EU-funded project WMF 2012 . Organised under the global Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS), which brings industry and academia together and identifies innovation partners worldwide, the project sought to build unparalleled manufacturing synergies for EU companies. This would not only benefit Europe in a time of crisis and help support the continent's 30 million people who work in industry, it would also contribute to sustainable growth. Economic progress as well as ecological and social effectiveness form part of the project's vision. These priorities fall completely in line with the goals of the EU, which chaired the IMS in the period leading up to the conference. To achieve a successful event that would accomplish challenging goals such as increased competitiveness, innovation, networking and exploitation of technology, the project team closely defined the rich conference programme. It articulated the interests and requirements of stakeholders such as industrialists, financers, policymakers, academics, unions and citizens. Building on a strong base, the three-day event attracted over 300 participants and 100 supporting institutions, as well as the press, addressing manufacturing themes and issues across some 20 different economic sectors. There was also strong participation from Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America, altogether representing over 40 countries. The event represented a dynamic platform for debating relevant global visions and issues related to manufacturing. It stimulated ideas on supporting manufacturing worldwide and laid the groundwork for subsequent editions of the WMF. A radically more robust global manufacturing industry that involves multiple stakeholders and that takes social and environmental issues into consideration is now in the making, thanks to the efforts of the WMF 2012.