Technical Sovereignty – The European Chips Act

15 Sep 2021

EU President, Ursula von der Leyen, announced a new European Chips Act in her State of the Union speech, 15 September 2021. The Act should cover three dimensions: research strategy, production capacity and international cooperation, says Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

Chips Vital for Digital

In her address, President von der Leyen, described digital “as a make or break issue” for Europe. And it depends fundamentally on the supply of chips. Investing in European technical sovereignty is essential to ensuring a digital transformation that is in line with Europe’s rules and values, she said.

Hence, the new European Chips Act will seek to link Europe’s world-class, design and testing capacities within an ecosystem that includes chip production. This will not only guarantee security of supply but also open new opportunities for European ground-breaking technology.

Building on Research Strengths

Outlining his vision for the European Chips Act, Thierry Breton focused on three dimensions, starting with a European Semiconductor Research Strategy. He noted that the entire global semiconductor production industry relies on research from European institutes: IMEC in Belgium, LETI/CEA in France, and Fraunhofer in Germany. The challenge now is boost European research to ambitious new levels via a strategy that builds on research partnerships within the Key Digital Technologies (KDT) Joint Undertaking.

Creating a Resilient Supply Chain

Pointing to current shortages in the semiconductor market, both President von der Leyen and Thierry Breton highlighted the need for resilient supply chains. Europe requires a collective plan to enhance production capacity, says Thierry Breton. This would include monitoring across every point of the supply chain from design, production, packaging and equipment to wafer producers and other suppliers. Such monitoring would be key to averting future disruptions. Equally, Europe must develop the capacity for high volume production of advanced and energy-efficient semiconductors, moving towards 2nm and below feature sizes.

Maintaining International Cooperation

On the other hand, Thierry Breton recognized that Europe will not produce everything on its own. Rather it will seek to reduce over-dependence on single countries or regions, while continuing to encourage foreign investment, especially in high-end technology. This means developing a framework for international cooperation and partnership.

For her part, President von der Leyen acknowledged the scale of the challenge. Nonetheless, she expressed confidence that Europe could achieve its ambitions. Europe had proven its ability to take on a huge technological task with the Galileo satellite programme. It can do so again with chips, she stated.

Read the full State of the Union speech here

Read Thierry Breton’s post here