Brussels, 08 Mar 2004
Participants at the first meeting of the Textiles High Level Group on 5 March, who included Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, have pledged to identify a research strategy to make the European textile industry more competitive.
The Action Plan will be presented to the European Council of Ministers in July.
'We have to build upon our know-how in the traditional sector to develop new high-tech applications,' said Mr Busquin. 'The EU textile industry can thrive if it invests in new production processes and materials, in innovative design and manufacturing systems and in training and skills. The High Level Group will be instrumental in pooling the efforts of key players in identifying a vision and clear strategic research agenda in this field.'
The European textiles and clothing sector represents around 4 per cent of the EU's manufacturing production and 7 per cent of manufacturing employment, and has an annual turnover of 200 billion euro. The EU is the world's biggest exporter of textile products and the second largest exporter of clothing products after China.
Commissioner Liikanen said that the European textiles and clothing industry had gone through a difficult period during the last three years: 'However, there are many success stories in both the internal market and major export markets. Our challenge is to build on existing strengths in an industry which is in transition. We must also act in those areas which will allow us to enhance its competitiveness.'
The High Level Group will propose specific research and development (R&D) measures in areas such as development of new materials, including technical textiles, and new production processes and clean technologies to contribute to sustainable development.
Within the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), 1.3 billion euro are devoted to the priority of 'Nanotechnologies and nanosciences, knowledge-based multi-functional materials and new production processes and devices' which encompasses research in the field of textiles.
Measures will also be introduced in the areas of education, trade, intellectual property rights, industrial cooperation and regional policy.