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How can Europe drive a new industrial revolution?

By CNN wire staff
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The CNN panel -- hosted by Richard Quest -- was split on whether Europe's manufacturing sector was in trouble
  • Panelists agreed that there is a need for better education and less regulation in developed economies
  • Former UK minister Digby Jones said a 'skills-fit-for-purpose' cohort is the only way to take on Asia

London (CNN) -- The UK's role as a global manufacturing center has stumbled as other nations rise -- now Europe must focus on quality and exports to emerging markets to prosper, a CNN Marketplace Europe debate has been told.

Digby Jones, former Minister of State for UK Trade and Investment said high-end, innovative and trusted products would always deliver sales for Europe.

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"Whether you're making it in Birmingham or Berlin, whether you're making it in Lyon or London... Europe actually has a very, very good and important place in the 21st century," he said.

Jones, speaking at a panel hosted by CNN's Richard Quest, said Europe needed to target markets such as India and China if it is to survive. He added: "It's all about international competitiveness; it's actually not in a globalized economy about, where you do it."

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The panel -- which also included Roger Carr, chairman-designate of defence company BAE Systems, Lee Hopley, chief economist at the Manufacturers Organisation for UK Manufacturers and Sarah Curran, founder of my-wardrobe.com -- was split on whether Europe's manufacturing center was in trouble.

Hopley told CNN that European manufacturing had been going through a tough time as debt-ridden nations struggle to cope with harsh austerity measures and a regional debt crisis. However, "there are industries such as the aerospace sector which right across Europe has been booming and will continue to so for some time," Hopley added.

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Two of the world's largest aircraft makers, Boeing and Airbus, have both seen an increase in sales. The two have raised production to record levels and last year Boeing said it expects a need for 34,000 aircraft in the next 20 years to meet the demands of India and China.

Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, was also optimistic for European industry. He said: "No, it's not in trouble. I think it's a question of knowing what you're good at, having the right skill set in place and then exploiting it."

The panel agreed that the only way to develop industry in Europe was to encourage education and less regulation.

Fashion guru Curran said more support is needed for young entrepreneurs in developed economies. She added: "I didn't find that help... I could have done with more help."

While Jones said governments in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy must all "sharpen up" their education systems if future generations are going to get jobs in western economies.

And Jones closed the debate by adding: "Without doubt, providing the wealth creators of western Europe with a 'skills-fit-for-purpose' cohort is the only way to take on Asia."

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