Deploying Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) is seen as a critical factor for maintaining competitiveness in manufacturing. KETs offer new routes for technological innovation in many industries and can be a main driver for opening up new markets and stimulating growth. Consequently, governments in many countries actively promote the development and adoption of KETs, including nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, micro- and nano¬electronics, photonics, and advanced materials, using advanced manufacturing technologies for the production of KET products.

The EU Commission has identified the critical role of KETs. In in its recent industrial policy update the Commission identified KETs as priority action lines to help reverse the negative trend of EU industry. This study, which is part of a series of background studies for the 2013 Competitiveness Report of the EU Commission, attempts to contribute to a better understanding of the role of KETs for industrial competitiveness.

This study provides an overview of the position of the EU in the production of KETs-related technologies (based on patent data) and in international trade in KETs-based products. In addition, the study provides an overview of recent technological developments and examines examples of KETs-based products in terms of the EU’s position in global value chains. The study also presents the position of EU member states in the production of KETs based on patent data.

The main analytical work relates to trade data analysis:

  • First, the EU position in international trade in KETs-based products (by sub-fields within each KET) over time is examined using indicators such as market share, comparative advantage and trade surplus;
  • Secondly, the technology content of EU exports and imports of KETs-based products is determined by using unit value analysis;
  • Thirdly, sub-fields of KETs-based products are identified for which the EU shows improving or deteriorating competitiveness over time;
  • Fourthly, specialisation of EU member states in production and trade in KETs-based products is analysed by combining production and trade statistics;
  • Finally, the link between technology performance (based on patents) and trade performance of EU and non-EU countries in KETs-based products is investigated.

Selected Publications


Van de Velde, Els , Pieterjan Debergh, Anold Verbeek, Christian Rammer, Katrin Cremers, Paula Schliessler and Birgit Gehrke (2013), Production and Trade in KETs-based Products: The EU Position in Global Value Chains and Specialization Patterns Within the EU, European Commission, DG Enterprise, Brussels. Download


Europäische Kommission, DG Enterprise and Industry , Brüssel , BE

Project duration

01.12.2012 - 30.06.2013

Project members

Dr. Christian Rammer (Coordinator)
Dr. Paula Schliessler