This research paper provides a solid historical overview of European industrial policy during the post-WWII era, extending the time horizon up to the 1990s. Our research focus is the EU 15. Unlike previous publications, this paper outlines the most important characteristics and drivers of European industrial policy in a comparative and transnational perspective in order to provide some conclusions about policy impacts, historical policy continuities and national policy convergence, looking at changing institutional settings especially in transition periods and asking finally how these historical lessons could be fruitful for further research on future effective political action. This paper provides unequivocal evidence that state industrial policy in Europe after 1945 had been always one of the most controversial policy fields and that its scopes and instruments differed greatly between countries and changed over time. Industrial policy was not a novel phenomenon of the postwar era. Beyond the immediate goals, it was part of what can be considered the economic culture of every country. National traditions, historical legacies and path-dependencies did play an important role and may explain the enormous differences between nations and regions in Europe, even when they had to face similar challenges. The paradigm shift towards an interventionist industrial policy approach implemented in most European countries after 1945, which persistently prevailed until the 1990s, fostered economic structural change and was partially very effective in supporting high economic growth during the prosperity years, but had often led to an inefficient allocation of national economic resources in many countries in the longer run. The more important and effective factors that enhanced industrial productivity in the long run, were, firstly, industrial policies establishing national and/or regional promising effective incentive structures for the private sector, and secondly industrial policies encouraging openness to trade and investment, by creating an international environment favourable to competition, innovation and technology transfer. For Western Europe, it was increasing trade and investment openness, largely, but not exclusively, under the heading of European integration.
Academic research economic growth path economic strategy EU integration European economic policy industrial innovation industrial policy innovation innovation policy institutional reforms new technologies post-industrialisation