The Innovation Race

By Matt Hatch
The Innovation Race

Here at Protolabs we’ve spent the past few months talking to some of the most influential people in the European automotive industry.

We wanted to find out just how European car makers are facing up to the challenges posed by a period of unprecedented change – and how confident the industry’s leaders are in the future.

Our new research looked at innovation in the automotive sector across Europe. It questioned over 300 senior executives in France, Germany, Italy and the UK to gain a detailed picture of the overall state of the industry across the continent and in the respective individual territories. The research therefore provides a really unique perspective of a critical sector which makes huge contribution to the economic growth of Europe.

We wanted to know how the combined force of Industry 4.0, changing customer demands and expectation and growing political and environmental pressures was shaping the industry.

Our research came up with some eye-opening statistics.

  • 52 per cent of our respondents believe an iconic car manufacturer will go out of business in the next three years
  • 55 per cent regard stricter environmental regulation as the most pressing short-term concern (in the next 12 months)
  • 52 per cent also believe a new entrant will disrupt the market with a revolutionary new kind of vehicle in the next three years.
  • 56 per cent expect consumers to increasingly share their cars rather than buy them
  • 69 per cent say they have never been under as much pressure to innovate as they are today
  • 71 per cent say they need to adopt Industry 4.0 or digital processes to survive

The indication is that consumers are now looking to a future involving electric cars and driverless technology. They will be happy to share their vehicles and rely on new vehicle-hailing technologies to get around. Many in the industry believe they are well-placed to answer these challenges, with optimism high across the continent – typically above 80 per cent in all four countries.


cnc machines

But we did detect a hint of complacency. The report also found nearly half of our respondents (48%) say they are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right talent to drive the innovation they will need to flourish. And in some areas as few as 10 per cent of manufacturers think 3D printing and additive manufacturing plays a significant role in their work.

We think there is a clear message here.

Car makers must see the pace of change as an opportunity, not a threat. Speed in innovation is everything in the current market and the pace of change is only likely to get quicker.

If they cannot find the right talent, be that in-house or by developing new partnerships with external pacesetters – or are too slow to use fast-developing technologies such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing – they will get left in the slow lane, or even go out of business.

To discover more about the findings from the research, please follow the link here.