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Horizon 2020 and the “Factories of the Future” Initiative

The Factories of the Future initiative (Fof) is a public-private partnership (PPP Fof) based on research and development activities to help European manufacturers cope with international competition by supporting the development of key generci technologies and the uptake thereof in European factories. PPP Fof calls for proposals have been published and funded under FP7 between 2007 and 2013, and under the Horizon 2020 programme since 2014.

Background: counteracting the decline of the manufacturing industry in Europe

Industrial production accounts for 16% of European GDP and is a key vehicle for innovation, productivity, growth and job creation. The manufacturing industry employs over 30 million people in Europe, the double counting support activities such as logistics. In addition, 80% of European exports are manufactured goods. However, Europe’s industrial base has been facing an inexorable erosion of its position, its global leadership in a number of key sectors being challenged by emerging competitors. One of the main approach to tackling this challenge lies in the introduction of the Public Private Partnership Factories of the Future, the strategy of which focuses on the development of the technological excellence of the manufacturing industry in Europe through the industrial uptake and development of so-called “enabling” technologies. These technologies relate to, among others, adaptive machines, Information Technology and Communication for manufacturing, as well as industrial handling of new materials. Under the Horizon 2020 programme, the PPP Factory of the future will mainly come into force through the funding of transnational research and development projects, with an emphasis on demonstration activities on production lines to foster the validation and market uptake of products and processes.

A tripartite effort: European Commission, Member States, industry players

The public-private nature of the partnership refers to the way work programmes and calls for proposals are draft and designed: Fof calls for proposals can be seen as the operational translation of priorities of the “Factories of the Future 2020: Roadmap 2014” public paper, prepared by the ad hoc industrial Advisory Group “ad-hoc industrial Advisory Group (AIAG)” which brings together the European Commission, the EFFRA (European Association for Research on the future plants) and a set of research organizations and European companies representating the manufacturing sector. The development of the roadmap is also made on the basis of an European consultation carried out by the EFFRA. The consultation aimed to promote early involvement of stakeholders of the sector (in this respect, the EFFRA just launched a new consultation for the development of the Work Programme 2016-2017 “Factories of the Future”). In the frame of the PPP Factories of future, the European Commission has committed itself to provide 1.15 billion euro of EU funding to support the development of new technologies and production systems for the manufacturing industry (700 million from the budget of DG Research, 450 on the DG Communication Networks). On the private side, industry players participating in the FoF Public-Private Partnership have set to match the efforts of the Commission by investing an amount three to ten higher than that invested by the Commission in order to leverage the impact of EU funding and maximize synergies between public and private investment (unlike the Commission, private partners represented by EFFRA did not actually committed themselves to investing a precise amount, the financial committment of the private side remains based on sheer promises). In this respect, the PPP Factories of the Future operates on the same basis as that of the the SPARC PPP on robotics.

Location of the “Factories of the Future” PPP within the Horizon 2020 work programme 

European funding dedicated to the Factories of the Future PPP will be mainly channelled through the Horizon 2020 programme and made available through FoF calls for proposals. Fof call for proposals ore one component of the work programme on “Nanotechnologies, advanced Materials, advanced Manufacturing and Processign and Biotechnology” of the “Leadership in Key Enabling Industrial Technologies” of strand of the “Industrial Leadership” Pillar of the Horizon 2020 work programme (page 69 to 88 of the work programme, Fof 1 -2014, Fof 14 – 2015)

* To date, 2 calls for proposals for Factories of the Future have been published: the H2020 – Fof – 2014 Call (€116 million budget, the deadline for subimitting proposals has passed), and the H2020 – Fof – 2015 Call (€145 million budget, deadline for subimitting proposals: 12 december 2014). As is often the case within the H2020 programme, Fof calls for proposals are split into sub-topics and sub-calls, the description of which can be found in the work programme.


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