Advanced manufacturing opportunities in SEE

Automation & RoboticsIndustrySouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 3/2019 • 26.08.2019

The European Union is constatntly striving to stimulate the implementation of advanced technologies in the European manufacturing industry. There is a specially assigned unit - Task Force for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies for Clean Production, whose function is to coordinate EU efforts in order to increase the competitiveness of the manufacturing enterprises in the Union. The unit also aims to foster the development and speed up the market uptake of advanced manufacturing technologies in a broad range of industries.

The project gives a large definition of advanced manufacturing, including all production activities applying cutting edge knowledge and/or non-technological innovation leading to improvements of existing products, processes and business models and to the production and diffusion of new ones.

According to the accepted terminology, “advanced manufacturing” includes production activities able to improve production speed, productivity, energy and materials consumption, operating precision, waste, pollution management and enabling resource-efficient and low emission production.

Thus, the joint efforts of the Union are directed to accelerating the dissemination and commercialisation of advanced manufacturing technologies; boosting the demand for advanced manufacturing technologies and reducing skills shortages and competence deficits.

А broad research conducted and published in 2018 by the U.S. Department of commerce shows that many SEE countries (among other European countries) have numerous opportunities and have developed flexible funding mechanisms for stimulating the acceptance of advanced technologies in manufacturing. In the following article we will present an excerpt of the results, concerning Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.



Manufacturing in Bulgaria has been traditionally strong and a priority sector. It accounts for 28 percent of Bulgaria’s GDP, with the two most promising production sectors being automotive parts and digital manufacturing, the U.S. Commercial department points out. According to Bulgaria’s National Statistical Institute, Bulgaria’s manufacturing sector grew significantly in 2017. Repair and installation of machinery and equipment grew more than 25 percent; and the manufacture of other non-metallic products and the production of transportation equipment grew by more than 25 percent.

The sectors with most potential include metallurgy and metals production, production of automotive parts and digital manufacturing such as software, drivers and 3D printing. 
“The automotive industry is fast growing in Bulgaria. Bulgaria produces components for such brands as Tesla, Lamborghini and Porsche. The country makes 90% of the bag sensors in European cars and manufactures sensors for air conditioning systems, aluminum parts, disc-based brake systems, SoCs, and water and oil pumps for leading global brands. The auto parts sector expects a 70 percent increase in revenues till the end of 2019”, the study of the U.S. Commercial department shows.

The excellent mobile and internet networks available in the country make the market friendly and open to innovation and digital technologies. Implementation of integrated systems such as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is also a priority. Introducing variety of smart technologies, such as smart lighting systems and priority traffic lights, is expected to facilitate the traffic management and provide passengers with real time information.

3D printing manufacturing progressively expands in Bulgaria. 3D scanning, software, services and other related solutions can provide companies with customer support. Bulgarian 3D companies also tend to partner with many U.S. companies in the field, the research adds.

According to the U.S. Department of commerce, industry modernization is crucially important for Bulgaria. “Innovations and Competitiveness” 2014-2020 is one of the EU operational programs that addresses the challenges for modern economy. In that respect, two of the funding priorities are Technological development and innovation and Entrepreneurship and SME growth capacity. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy are also engaged with the funding opportunities and further development of advanced manufacturing.



Croatia is among the top countries in the European Union by industrial growth. The fastest growing sectors within the processing industry are also the largest: food and beverages (24% of the processing industry), manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and chemical products (11%), manufacturing of electrical machinery and equipment (9%), and manufacturing of rubber, plastic, leather and paper products (9%). Over 21 000 enterprises in Croatia are registered in the manufacturing industry, they employ almost 300 000 people.

Pharmaceuticals and IT manufacturing, as well as electronic and optical products are the most technology advanced sectors, with over 50% of revenues being generated by exports. In 2015, Croatian companies had 263 robots or 13 robots per 10 000 employees. Some 18% of all companies in Croatia used industrial robots for heavy industry, while 17% used robots for handling processes.

Robots usage in Croatia is still low, but by 2018 a 5% increase was registered, matching average global growth rate. Manufacture of beverages is the most specialized in Croatia compared to the other EU Member States, the U.S. Department of commerce further adds.

The government intends to transform the economy and improve competitiveness through the use of USD 3,3 billion in EU funds for competitiveness, research and development, and information and communication technologies, the report clarifies.

The national platform for industry transformation “Digitizing Impulse 2020”, run by the Government of Croatia and related to EU Digital Agenda 2020, is a basis for utilization of 300 million Euros worth of EU funding for creation of smart and digitalized companies and public institutions (50% funded by the company, 25% local government, 25% EU funds).



Greece’s manufacturing sector, after suffering a multi-year financial crisis, has now slowly but steadily regained its confidence, the market resource guide confirms. Unemployment and inflation have been reduced and the market climate has been positive, with manufacturing production increased by 6,4% in January 2018.
Despite the broad spectrum of its definition, advanced manufacturing initiatives in Greece are limited although steadily growing.

Promoting R&D in measurement technologies and robotics, raising awareness of the benefits of automation, and improving support for start-ups are just some areas of recommendations for developing advanced manufacturing. “A brief look at high-technology exports as a percentage of manufactured exports shows a positive trend, although Greece still has one of the lowest percentages in advanced manufacturing employment”, the paper informs.

In response to the uncertainty caused by the economic recession, the National Research and Innovation Strategy has undertaken the project of increasing competitiveness and growth by innovation. In its 2014-2020 programming period, the General Secretariat for Research and Technology bases its strategy on Smart Specialization, which possesses a competitive advantage. Priority areas of this strategy include agro-food, biosciences and health/pharmaceuticals, information and communications technology (ICT), energy, environment and sustainable development/climate changes, transport and logistics, materials/construction, culture/creative industry and tourism.



Even though Romania entered a process of deindustrialization during the 1990s, starting in 2000s the intensity of this process decreased, allowing the manufacturing sector to remain the backbone of the Romanian industry and economy, the U.S. Commercial department points out. By 2014 the annual turnover of the high-technology manufacturing industry in Romania amounted to USD 2,1 billion, with an annual production value of USD 1,8 billion. “Furthermore, Romania is the leader in Europe, and sixth in the world, in terms of the number of certified IT specialists, with density rates per 1000 inhabitants greater than in the United States or Russia”, the research shows.

The Romanian automotive industry is the country’s economy’s engine and its currently on the rise. Robot installations were reported to the IFR for the first time in 2003 with 9 units and the number is to set to surge to 414 000 units till the end of 2019, the published statistics say.

In addition, public-private partnerships, such as the establishment of the National Center for Direct and Assisted Training for Robotics within the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, links the educational field with up-to-date solutions that operate at a real industrial scale.

“Starting 2016, Romania put itself on the 3D bioprinting map, as Timisoara-based tech startup, Symme 3D, introduced the country’s first ever 3D bioprinter”, the report further informs.

The National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation (ANCSI) implements the Nucleus Programme, an institutional funding instrument for the National R&D Institutes (budget EUR 70,5 million in 2013). The Intermediary Body for RDI, coordinated by ANCSI, implements the Operational Programme for RDI Structural Funds 2014-2020 (with an average annual budget of approximately EUR 120 million).

The Romanian Academy – which has its own chapter in the national budget (EUR 100,7 million in 2015) – allocates the budget for its research institutes. Different ministries (Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Agriculture) manage their separate “sectorial RDI plans” (estimated budget in 2015 below EUR 10 million).



Industrial production in Serbia grew 3,3% in 2017. The manufacturing industry had an increase during 2017, with industrial production up 6,9% from 2016, statistical data shows. Although developments in advanced manufacturing are burdened with many limitations, such as a small domestic market, low capital accumulation, and scarce resources for development, combined with years of devastation of domestic industry and transitional recession in the 1990s and 2000s. 

The main industrial sectors in Serbia are automobiles and base metals, followed by furniture, food processing, machinery, chemicals, sugar, tires, clothes, pharmaceuticals. The manufacturing of vehicle chassis system parts, especially tires and suspension parts, is the most prominent activity in the automotive industry. “Electrical system components are another dominant product group with car batteries and wiring installations as the most important products.

The largest and the most important investment in the sector is the FIAT project. Metal processing is one of Serbia’s core industries with the longest manufacturing tradition. Most of the companies within this industry are export-oriented because of internationally acknowledged quality and competitive prices”, the U.S. Department of commerce found out.

For Serbia, the advanced manufacturing concept is still in the domain of theory and academic research. The main promoters of this concept in Serbia are the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade, Academy of Engineering Sciences of Serbia, and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

These institutions are currently working to establish a National Forum for Industrial Development Policy, which will work closely with the Serbian Government on creating a strategy for future industrial development. The above-mentioned institutions are working to create a network of companies, scientific organizations, and universities engaged in the promotion of EU Manufuture programs in Serbia. The next step is to include government institutions and engage them in EU and regional development initiatives, the research further explains.



Advanced manufacturing technologies are increasingly being implemented across Turkey, with international companies leading the way. The most promising industries, according to the U.S. Department of commerce, are automotive and aviation manufacturing, both dominated by major international companies with a large number of local suppliers who must meet the latest technical and technological requirements.

In addition, durable consumer goods, electronics, chemicals, machinery, steel, construction, textiles, energy and mining industries are most active in adopting the global advanced manufacturing trends.

Based on the size of the economy, over the next decade, Turkey is anticipated to invest about USD 3-4,5 billion annually to integrate Industry 4.0 solutions into the manufacturing process.

Total imports of innovative materials/technical textiles to Turkey (including composites) is around USD 3,5 billion. The market size of industrial automation is USD 1,5 billion (2016), with annual growth rate over 20%. As for IIOT/Big data applications, the Turkish market size will reach a cumulative amount of USD 90 billion between 2017-2022, including sensors, M2M communication, AI, simulations, cloud computing, cyber security applications, the U.S. Department of commerce predicts.

In the field of additive manufacturing, over 400 mostly polymer based 3D printers are used in manufacturing in the country. Demand for advanced 3D printers, software programs and new printing materials is increasing.
Countries with advanced robotics in manufacturing have 300 robots per 10 000 workers (2017). This number is just 9 in Turkey, which shows a great potential for the development of robotics, the Commercial department summarizes.

In 2018 the Turkish Government launched the country’s “Industry 4.0 Roadmap”, detailing the incentives and financial support for implementing advanced manufacturing technologies. Turkey also has a Customs Union with the European Union and is in accession talks with the EU; therefore, it has access to the EU Horizon 2020 Industry 4.0 funds. These funds provide between USD 500 000 to USD 2,5 million of support for private sector projects in various Industry 4.0 headings. Thus Turkey will also be able to take advantage of enough financing to speed up the implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies.