After two years of online events, members of the European Electronic Components & Systems (ECS) community were delighted to be together again in person at the KDT Kick-off and Brokerage 2022, 3-4 May. It was a particularly significant return to face-to-face gatherings, marking the launch of the 2022 Calls for the new Key Digital Technologies (KDT) Joint Undertaking (JU).
The event was organised by the three Industry Associations – AENEAS, EPoSS and Inside – who represent the private sector within the JU. Welcoming participants, Caroline Bedran, AENEAS Director General, gave a brief recap of KDT’s origins as the successor to a series of JUs on ECS (most recently ECSEL). She reminded the audience that the KDT is a tri-partite partnership between the Industry Associations, the European Commission (EC) and Participating States (PS). Its industry-driven RD&I programme includes yearly calls based on the ECS SRIA (Strategic Research & Innovation Agenda) developed by the Associations in conjunction with the Commission.
Role of Industry Associations and opportunities for RD&I actors
Describing the role of RD&I actors (large companies, SMEs, RTOs, universities) within the KDT JU programme, Ms Bedran explained that they participate both in its strategic orientation and its operations. They do so, either directly via involvement in projects or indirectly through their membership of one of the industry associations.
The Industry Associations themselves are key players in the JU, representing these ‘private members’ and having a third of the voting rights on the Governing Board. This Board decides on all important topics for the JU – including strategy, budgets, Work Programme, and contents of the Calls. It also adopts the SRIA proposed by the private members.
Turning to the financial commitments, Ms Bedran said that EU is contributing 1.8 billion Euros to the KDT JU. This is a significant increase over ECSEL, creating scope to generate numerous projects of value for Europe and its ECS industry. For their part, the Industry Associations through their members are committed to contributing over 2.5 billion Euros.
Ms Bedran encouraged all interested parties to join the Industry Association of their choice to make the most of the benefits they bring. Based on non-profit models, the Associations give a voice to their members in shaping the strategy and content of the KDT JU. They advocate for topics and funding conditions in the calls, as well as supporting day-to-day management and organising events including Brokerages and the annual EFECS ECS stakeholder forum.
Why the KDT JU?
Ralf Bornefeld, Chair of the KDT JU Governance Board, spoke of the importance of the KDT JU in an ever more digital world. A joint approach is vital for Europe’s future, he said. By building leadership in KDT, Europe can reduce its dependency on other regions – all the more important in the light of the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and the war in Ukraine.
Europe doesn’t need to do everything alone, he added, but it should be able to cover the whole value chain. He called for the ECS community to act as one team, balancing diversity while acting together to go faster and speed decision-making. Referring to the proposed transition from the KDT JU to the Chips JU, Mr Bornefeld, again stressed balance. He noted the need for ‘classical KDT’ topics as well as leading edge semiconductors in order to deliver benefits for society as a whole.
Roles and goals: private members, EC and PSs
Following his speech, Mr Bornefeld joined Colette Maloney, KDT EC delegate, DG CNECT; Francis Deprez, KDT lead delegate Belgium; and Jean-Luc di Paola-Galloni, Chair of the KDT PMB in a panel session. Bert de Colvenaer, KDT JU Executive Director, asked the panellists about what each party brings to the KDT JU, what should be done with their inputs and what are the outputs?
Mr di Paola-Galloni spoke of the need for balance and trust, the importance of the entire value chain, and the role of private members in bringing information to the public sector. He encouraged to companies to increase their R&D spending and to ‘know your next customer’. And he said that ensuring money is well-spent on R&D is part of enabling Europe to build success based on its unique diversity, culture, values and ethics.
Ms Maloney described the EC as ‘the convening power’, ensuring all the parties are going in same direction. She talked about its role in proposing special topics related to the EU’s wider policy and in addressing critical gaps such as in AI and design. Its task was to use public money with balance to create a critical mass of industry, RTOs and PSs and build an ecosystem, she said. Indeed, the EC wants to further broaden participation and to simplify the process for applying for KDT JU funding.
Speaking for the PSs, Mr Deprez noted the importance of proximity, networking, and adapting rules to local conditions especially in supporting SMEs. He said that the PSs are looking for impact, growth and employment. Bottom-up special topics could help companies grow and move into specialisations. And through innovation and collaboration, Europe could be early to market with leading edge products that give it a competitive advantage even over regions with lower costs, he said.
Mr Bornefeld reiterated the need to go faster from research to industrialisation. Ultimately, he said, success for the KDT JU would be in making a major contribution to preserving European society and its values, and to creating a greener world for all.
ECS SRIA 2022 and KDT Calls 2022
Next, Patrick Cogez, ECS-SRIA Co-Chair, AENEAS, introduced the ECS SRIA 2022, which forms the basis of the KDT Calls 2022. He described new features designed to improve readability and useability particularly for responding to KDT calls. He added that this latest edition includes quantum technologies, integrated photonics, flexible electronics and open-source hardware, and that the 2023 update is set to include inputs from the RISC-V working group.
Yves Gigase, Head of Programmes at the KDT JU Office, gave details of the KDT Call 2022. He drew attention to some key differences from its predecessor ECSEL – including its larger budget, new funding rates, and the bottom-up and top-down approach (covering three focus topics on silicon photonics, RISC V processors, and ecodesigned smart electronic systems). Mr Gigase also encouraged those answering calls to keep in mind the need to address key EU objectives such as the Green Deal. In addition, he advised reading the Work Plan 2022, checking the KDT JU website for the latest national conditions, and using the ECS Collaboration Tool to create ideas and find partners.
Overview of the EU Chips Act
The final plenary sessions on day two began with an introduction to the proposed EU Chips Act by Lucilla Sioli, Director for AI and Digital Industry, EC DG-CNECT. Ms Sioli outlined the reasons behind the proposal: the global shortage of chips, the security of supply risk for the EU, and the detrimental impact of shortages on European industry – issues that have been brought into sharper focus by Covid and the accelerating digital transition.
She went on to describe the three pillars of the proposed Act. Pillar I will increase funding and capacity in R&D and expand participation (particularly among SMEs). This will have a direct impact on the KDT JU as it will transition into the Chips JU with additional funding available. Pillar II will increase Europe’s production capacity through ‘first of a kind’ facilities. And Pillar III will establish a monitoring system to anticipate shortages and allow the EU to take pre-emptive action in emergencies.
Ms Sioli stressed that the EU remains open and committed to free trade, so funding for production capacity could go to non-European companies. However, she insisted that all investments would be scrutinised to ensure there were no ‘negative distortions’ to EU industry. In addition, she pointed out the value such openness can bring in terms of technology transfer. She also emphasised that the various EU instruments such as the IPCEI on Microelectronics inherently included support for software development, and that these instruments were backed with significant budgets to ensure they can achieve their ambitions.
Networking and consortia building face-to-face
The final presentation was given by Philippe Gougeon of Valeo, who illustrated the value of networked value chains using the example of the CCAM Partnership. This example fitted well with the Brokerage’s most vital role – giving participants the opportunity to network, pitch projects, find partners and build or extend existing consortia.
There were 38 project posters to explore in the exhibition area. Plus, on day one, the afternoon session involved 25 project pitches on topics ranging from flexible electronics and wearable, low powers sensors for health applications to quantum chemical algorithms and heterogeneous integration on Thick SOI. Day two gave plenty more time for networking, informal discussions and consortia meetings. And as everyone agreed, the event proved that for these kinds of conversations nothing beats being together in the same place!
Presentations from KDT Kick-off and Brokerage 2022 are available here:
The next ECS community event is EFECS, the international forum to ‘Create impact by collaborative innovation! for an autonomous and sustainable Europe along the ECS value chain in Europe. It will be on 24-25 November 2022 in Amsterdam.