Discussing the future of manufacturing

Yesterday, the annual MANUFUTURE Conference kicked off at the Gipuzkoa Technology Park in San Sebastian, Spain, on November 23 and 24. More than a hundred attendees from all around Europe gathered to share ideas about people, technology, and innovation. This conference is promoted by ManuFUTURE-EU technology platform, which has been bringing together organizations and individuals for over 15 years to support manufacturing research and development. The event encourages European industrial companies to innovate collaboratively with research and development entities. 

The organizing committee included EIT Manufacturing, MONDRAGON Corporation, IDEKO, Tecnalia, Tekniker, and the Basque Research & Technology Alliance (BRTA), all deeply rooted entities in the region. The conference featured key speakers from European manufacturing research and development entities, and the European Commission.

Representatives from EIT Manufacturing

This year’s theme encouraged us to “anticipate the future“, with an agenda full of different activities, including simultaneous workshops and plenary sessions, allowing attendees to gain insightful ideas.

Highlights of the first day

Before the conference started, attendees had the pleasure to visit industrial companies and research and technology organisations located in the Basque Country, such as Tecnalia, IDEKO and DANOBAT.


Maurizio Gattiglio, ManuFUTURE-EU Chairman, kicked off the event in the opening session by providing context on the main manufacturing issues in Europe and worldwide. He emphasized that despite some unexpected challenges (“black swans”) that have recently affected European companies, there are ongoing challenges that need to be addressed. Therefore, the conference served as a platform for:

  • Exchanging transformative ideas.
  • Highlighting the importance of manufacturing research through programmes to support competitiveness and resilience.
  • Establishing long-term strategies.
  • Cooperation.

Peter Dröll, Head of Directorate E within DG RTD at the European Commission, added that we have a strong manufacturing industry in Europe, which he described as “our trademark, our brand”. In his opininon, the most significant challenges facing the manufacturing sector are:

  • Embracing the systematic integration of circularity in the entire manufacturing value chain.
  • Adopting manufacturing as a service.
  • Capitalizing on digitalization and opportunities from AI by putting the human at the center.

Following the opening session, attendees had the opportunity to engage with experts on another topics such as “The European Products (and Services) of the Future” and “The Energy Challenge for Manufacturing” during the two workshops held on the first day.

Highlights of the second day

The second day started with a fruitful session about “Speeding up the Manufacturing Innovation Cycle: Success Stories & Challenges”, with the participation of Xavier Baillard, Innovation Director at EIT Manufacturing. Baillard emphasized how EIT Manufacturing supports the commercialization of innovation and shared success stories, such as the LAMM pilot project. He also presented Innovate Together, an open call arised from the collaboration between European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA) and EIT Manufacturing. This call aims to accelerate the market deployment of exploitable results of factories of the future and ‘Made in Europe’ projects.

Finally, Antoni Pijoan, Managing Director EIT Manufacturing West, was one of the speakers in charge of the closing session together with representatives from EFFRA, European Commission, and ManuFUTURE-EU. Pijoan highlighted key ideas for manufacturing development, emphasizing a ‘Better together’ approach that stressed the importance of collaboration in fostering innovation. On the other hand, he remarked that ‘the more we are, the stronger we become’ and pointed out the importance of focusing on market needs before investing in the offer and reducing the barriers to involve SMEs, which represent 90% of manufacturing companies in the European Union but far away in terms of participation in collaborative developments.