The European Commission (EC) is moving quickly with preparations for the European Chips Act. Among these, it held an online CEO roundtable on semiconductors on 10th January 2022.
At the event, Margrethe Vestager, EC Executive Vice President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the internal market, represented the Commission. They were joined by CEOs from organisations across the European semiconductor ecosystem, spanning research institutions and start-ups to major companies in design and manufacturing.
Strengthening Europe’s supply and resilience
Through the Chips Act, the Commission aims to address issues of supply shortages and to increase the resilience of Europe’s semiconductor ecosystem. Its goal is to create a coherent European vision and strategy. At the same time, it wants to avoid the risk of a subsidy race between nations and fragmentation of the single market. And globally, Europe and its assets should have a firm place in the geopolitical landscape.
The challenges today
Currently, while Europe is strong in research and areas such as power electronics, industrial automation and equipment manufacturing, analogue chips and low-power technology, it has vulnerabilities. It depends strongly on East Asia for chip manufacturing, packaging, testing and assembly, and on the US for design. Moreover, Europe has no capabilities in the design and manufacture of leading-edge nodes.
Key discussion points
In this context, the roundtable participants explored ways to increase transparency in semiconductor supply chains. They also discussed possibilities for investing in existing and new semiconductor production facilities, and how to foster technology and innovation leadership.
The participants agreed that achieving Europe’s ambitions would require joint action. And they recognised that semiconductor R&D, design and manufacturing are closely linked. But the industry requires expertise and a skilled workforce, as well as a better mutual understanding with its customers.
Specific issues to address
To go forward, certain clear issues emerged. Europe should build on its strengths in research and equipment. There were also calls for support for pilot lines and design infrastructures, as well as for a Chips Fund targeted towards start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs.
In addition, the roundtable raised the urgent need for an investment framework to increase Europe’s manufacturing capacity in mature and advanced technologies. This would be essential to reach the goal of having 20% of global production in Europe as set out in the Digital Compass.
More widely, Europe needs to increase its assertiveness in the geopolitical arena and strive for a worldwide level playing field, said participants.
Commenting afterwards, Thierry Breton tweeted: “Strong support for an ambitious initiative and swift implementation. Europe has all it takes. It is time to play our cards.”
The organisations that took part in the CEO roundtable on semiconductors were:
- Alcyon Photonics (ES)
- ASML (NL)
- CEA-Leti (FR)
- Fraunhofer (DE)
- IMEC (BE)
- Infineon (DE)
- Kalray (FR)
- Melexis (BE)
- Nordic Semiconductor (NO)
- NXP (NL)
- Robert Bosch (DE)
- SOITEC (FR)
- STMicroelectronics (FR/IT)
- Tachyum (SK)
The EC’s write-up of the meeting is here: