This project is a contribution to the European Commission's Report on European Competitiveness 2010. Its purpose is to analyse, for each of the five key enabling technologies (KETs) listed below, the current state of technological competitiveness of Europe, primarily based on patent analyses. Furthermore, the study summarises the key findings from literature on the likely market potential and industry impact of each KET in the medium term. The study also examines the role of governments for the development of each KET both in the EU and in other countries, focussing on public funding of R&D devoted to these KETs, fiscal incentives, public procurement and lead markets. Finally, the study discusses likely barriers that may impede technological progress and industrial innovation in each KET in terms of market and systemic failures and derives policy conclusions on how to strengthen the EU's competitiveness in each KET.

The notion of Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) refers to the fact that emerging new technologies have always played a key role in the history of innovation. New technological developments open up new paths for inventing new products and processes and advancing current technology. Particularly important in this respect are those technologies that have a great potential to affect innovation in many different industries and fields of application. These so-called key enabling technologies have spurred invention and technical progress in the past tremendously, including technologies such as the steam engine, electricity, synthetic materials or computing, and will most likely do so in the future. Common characteristics of KETs include a high demand for R&D, skills and capital expenditure, a multidisciplinary approach cutting across many technology areas, long time horizons between basic research results and implementable innovations, high multiplier effects and high spillovers to other emerging technologies, and a great potential for enabling process, goods and service innovation. Currently, five technology areas are discussed as having the potential to serve as KETs and impact substantially economy and society in the future:
-    Nanotechnology
-    Industrial biotechnology
-    Advanced materials
-    Micro- and nanoelectronics, including semiconductors
-    Photonics

The project will analyse for each of the five KETs the current state of technological competitiveness of the EU compared to other world regions (USA, Japan, China etc.), the future prospects of each technology, the role of government support and likely barriers that may impede the full impact of the KETs on innovation and wealth. ZEW's contribution to this project primarily lies in the field of quantitative competitiveness analyses. These are based on patent data.

Project duration

15.01.2010 - 30.06.2010

Project members

Dr. Christian Rammer (Coordinator)
Dr. Birgit Aschhoff
Dr. Dirk Crass
Dr. Katrin Cremers
Prof. Dr. Christoph Grimpe