Implications of Industry 4.0 discussed in TEC PLEN

Representatives of FIEC’s member federations held an informal discussion during the TEC PLEN meeting last week, the annual meeting of the Technical Commission’s three sub-commissions. Amongst other things, participants considered the meaning of “industrial production” in construction and discussed the implications of automation, pre-fabrication, 3D printing and digitalisation in its widest sense. Although some of these processes are already being used, complete automation is a very long way off. Operators are required, robots still need to be programmed and 3D printing, although possible, is not widespread and whilst the huge potential is acknowledged, the 3D printing of buildings may in the end be limited to certain circumstances and types of building.  That said, TEC participants think that industrial production is already increasing with respect to processes – and of course products.  



The European Social Fund (ESF) celebrates its 60th anniversary: 6 decades of investment in people

The year 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the European Social Fund (ESF), Europe’s oldest and main instrument to invest in people. It was established together with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, with the aim of improving job opportunities for workers and raising their standard of living. At first, it was a relatively simple instrument for reimbursing Member States half the costs of vocational training and resettlement allowances for workers affected by economic restructuring. Today the ESF has become ever more targeted and strategic, focusing increasingly on systemic reforms. The ESF is based on co-financing, with financial contributions from both the Member States and the European Commission, and sometimes also the private sector. In the current financing period 2014 – 2020, the ESF is operational in all 28 Member States with an overall budget of €124.9 billion (€86.4 billion of which comes from the EU budget). Several FIEC member federations make use of the ESF for national initiatives focusing on construction.



New report highlights how EU Cohesion Policy improves the investment environment

One of the key elements of the Cohesion Policy reform for 2014-20 was the introduction of preconditions for Member States to receive money from the European Structural and Investment Funds. A first assessment published last week shows that the preconditions proved to be a powerful incentive for Member States and regions to carry out reforms which would have otherwise been delayed or not necessarily implemented.

The preconditions for successful investments (or “ex-ante conditionalities”) cover a wide variety of sectors, including compliance with energy efficiency, innovation, digital plans, and education reforms. They were included in the reformed Cohesion Policy to ensure sound and effective spending.They have for example helped establish transparent procedures in the field of public procurement, or have required Member States to improve and simplify the regulatory and policy environment for small businesses. In the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain, the fulfilment of the “energy efficiency” precondition gave a significant push to the swift transposition of the Energy Efficiency and Buildings Directives.Many preconditions required that support from EU Funds should form part of strategic investment frameworks. Designed to meet certain quality criteria, based on needs analysis and including measures to attract private investments, these frameworks encompassing EU, national and regional funding resulted in better coordinated and prioritised public spending overall.An efficient public administration is key to the success of EU and public investments. When preconditions specifically required the reinforcement and reform of administrations, the very process of fulfilling them resulted in improved coordination and communication between ministries, agencies, regional and local authorities and other stakeholders.