On 20th and 21st June, we held our first workshop on the future of the non-ferrous metals (NFM) industry in Europe. This is the second case study of the Future of Industry project that we are currently running for the Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). The purpose of this workshop, the first of two, was to identify and understand the key drivers of change for the European non-ferrous metals industry and to create a long-term vision for it. Having such a vision helps to identify the technology needs, challenges and opportunities and thereby empowers both industry and policy makers to better shape the future direction of the industry. In view of the specific characteristics of the sector, participants decided to take a two-step time horizon of 2050 to build the long-term vision and 2035 to reflect on concrete recommendations for action.

In the context of this new case study we initiated a partnership with Eurométaux , the Brussels-based association representing a large part of the non-ferrous metals industry as well as representatives from other associations from this sector (e.g. copper, aluminium) to be able to reach out to the sector as a whole.

Exploring the agent of change

On the first day of the workshop, we introduced our Industrial Landscape Vision tool (ILV2025 link to the vision) to the participants and explored how the agents of change – the driving forces that are expected to shape the future industrial landscape – were relevant to the future of non-ferrous metals manufacturing in Europe.

Exploring the agent of change

Exploring the agent of change

The ILV2025 describes 108 agents of change organised according to a STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political) structure. To facilitate this world café exercise, we prepared cards covering all relevant agents of change that could be filled by the participants to explain how each driver is relevant for the non-ferrous metals manufacturing industry in Europe over the next 34 years.

Production and Consumption System

We started the second day of the workshop trying to understand the components of the Production and Consumption System of the non-ferrous metals industry. This is the heart of the industrial landscape. It describes how people are going to produce and consume in the future. The components of this system – such as infrastructure, business environment, and materials – are strongly affected by, and linked to the agents of change and the enablers and constraints (factors – such as skills, markets, resources, and regulation – that can either enable or constrain the evolution of the industrial landscape). The participants selected the component they felt most comfortable with – Business Environment, Knowledge Management, Technologies and Production Processes, Services, Materials or Infrastructure – for in-depth discussions that allowed us to obtain a detailed picture of the inner workings of the non-ferrous metals sector as a system within European industry.

Infrastructure component exploration

Infrastructure component exploration

A vision for non-ferrous metals in 2050

The work on drivers of change and the production and consumption system was then summarised on a large poster to depict the Non-Ferrous Metals Landscape Vision as a first step for the development of a vision for the non-ferrous metals industry in 2050. The aim of the exercise was to provide a realistic and inspirational vision that can be used to support strategic planning and road mapping. It is always challenging to generate a vision statement that is specific enough to reflect the non-ferrous metals sector, while remaining general enough to capture its diversity. The draft vision statement produced during the workshop was slightly reworked to produce the version in the box below as a basis for further comments by the participants during the summer.

By 2050, the European non-ferrous metals industry will be a valued and trusted leader in delivering sustainable and innovative metals-based solutions and services to society, and a key player in closing material loops.
It will not only incorporate but also act to set social values and ethical standards in the global trade of non-ferrous metals. It will meet customer needs and demands, primarily in Europe, while providing social benefits through regional and local investment and superior environmental performance. It will act as a key driver behind advanced and dynamic value chains.
It will achieve this by improving the performance of non-ferrous metals in a circular economy, collaborating in different value-chains, with all important stakeholders, including employees, policy-makers, governments, academia, and interest groups, while retaining and developing essential skills and know-how.


Next steps

We have begun to prepare for the second workshop of this project, which will be held in Brussels next October 3-4. There, we will use the NFMLV2050 as a basis for further exploring the role of advanced manufacturing technologies and techniques in responding to the opportunities and challenges facing the European non-ferrous metals sector. Specifically, we will work on the intermediary layer of the ILV, i.e. the “Enablers and Constraints”. The focus will be on providing recommendations for all stakeholders in order to achieve the vision set during the first workshop.

Have a look at the video below to get an idea of how we discussed the future of the NFM industry with some of our participants!

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