The “Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform” aims to boost digital, net-zero and biotechnologies and enable the EU's industry to achieve the digital and net-zero transitions.
The Industry, Research and Energy and the Budgets committees adopted their position on Monday on the establishment of a "Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP)" designed to boost critical strategic technologies through various means, such as financial support, the 'Sovereignty Seal' and 'Sovereignty Portal'.
STEP aims to strengthen various EU programmes and funds and to channel up to EUR 160 billion into new investments, alongside cohesion policy incentives and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The platform would foster the growth of crucial technological value chains in sectors like digital, net-zero, and biotechnologies, address labour and skill shortages, and support innovation. In their amendments, MEPs advocate for an extra EUR 3 billion on top of the proposed 10 billion, bringing the STEP budget up to 13 billion euro in new funds.
Moreover, MEPs propose a closer alignment of this regulation with the Net-Zero Industry Act and the Critical Raw Materials Act and the establishment of a STEP committee to ensure its effective implementation.
STEP should also act as a “testbed for a fully-fledged Sovereignty Fund in the next MFF period”. MEPs ask the Commission to conduct an interim evaluation by 2025, including a proposal to amend STEP or a new proposal for a fully-fledged European Sovereignty Fund. If the Commission does not propose the latter, it must justify its choice, MEPs agreed.
"STEP was once foreseen to be the new European Sovereignty Fund - but it is not. With STEP, the Commission is trying to square the circle, but the proposal suffers from three competing goals: producing the necessary technologies to achieve our climate goals, increasing Europe's sovereignty vis-à-vis other regions of the world and strengthening cohesion among EU member states," said lead MEP for the Industry, Research and Energy Committee Christian Ehler (EPP, DE). "We have improved the text significantly and created legislative coherence with other dossiers, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act and the Critical Raw Materials Act. We ensured a properly functioning European Innovation Council to continue being the EU´s leading equity investor for strategic investments", he added.
"STEP is a starting point to properly support technologies made in Europe. European technologies must have access to better funding opportunities. Much-needed EU strategic autonomy can only be achieved by addressing the needs of our industries. STEP will channel existing funding into the right projects, boosting synergies between funds and promoting these projects. To this end, there will be a Sovereignty Seal, designed to help project promoters attract investment by certifying their contribution to STEP objectives. For that, having a governance structure – the STEP Committee – is of paramount importance. We must use funds transparently and effectively", said the rapporteur for the Budgets Committee José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT).
The proposed STEP is part of the ongoing revision of the long-term EU budget, for which adjustments are needed, as it has been severely depleted following the multiple crises that have occurred since 2021. MEPs insist that the STEP, along with the budgetary revision, should be agreed as soon as possible, as the package should be integrated into next year’s annual budget, to be negotiated in November 2023.
The "Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform" aims to strengthen European competitiveness and resilience in strategic sectors and to reduce their dependence on the EU economy. It foresees support for the development and manufacturing of critical technologies and addresses labour and skills shortages.
The legislation was adopted with 43 votes to 6, with 15 abstentions. It will be put to a vote by the full House during the 16-19 October plenary session.