A single European semiconductor strategy is on its way


At the International Semiconductor Strategy Symposium (ISS Europe), the European semiconductor industry affirmed its ability to innovate. More than 170 top industry representatives agreed on a number of joint steps and strategic measures to strengthen their competitiveness and sustainability. The controversial question whether the best way to attack future challenges will be "More Moore" or "More than Moore," ended in an expected compromise, namely that the industry should pursuit both strategies concurrently, the participants of a panel expressed. While the More than Moore sector is traditionally strong in Europe, going on with More Moore is important for two to three device makers in Europe and in particular for the European equipment suppliers which export 80% of their products.

A single European semiconductor strategy is on its way

In a global scale, the semiconductor industry is approaching the move to 450mm wafer processing technology ??? a step that promises to greatly boost the productivity of semiconductor manufacturers. However, since the investment to build a 450mm fab easily exceeds the $10 billion mark, this move is regarded as risky and, for this reason, reserved to only the very largest enterprises. In the past, this perspective divided the European industry into two camps - the "More Moore" group that advocates taking on the 450mm challenge, and the "More than Moore" group which shunned this risky investment and preferred to rely on application-oriented differentiation instead.

At the event SEMI Europe, an industry association embracing enterprises that represent the entire value chain and organizer of the ISS Europe, set up a high-ranking panel discussion on options and choices of a single European semiconductor strategy. The panel proved that entrepreneurial spirit is well alive among Europe's chipmakers, technology suppliers and researchers.

A single European semiconductor strategy is on its way

The panel participants recognized that the European semiconductor industry possesses the necessary expertise. So far, the willingness to jointly face these challenges has been affected adversely by the macroeconomic environment and the Euro crisis, which discouraged far-reaching strategic decisions. The members of the European Commission that recently signalized understanding the needs of the semiconductor industry's vital role for the high-tech location Europe, certainly contributed to the optimism in the industry.

"We have all the knowledge, the materials and the equipment," said Rob Hartman, Director Strategic Program for leading equipment manufacturer ASML, during the panel. "Let's do it in the EU."

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes' idea of creating an "Airbus for chips," a European initiative for the semiconductor industry comparable to the initiative that once led to the launch of the Airbus in the aviation industry, was strongly hailed by the panel.

"An Airbus for chips could be a very powerful tool," Van der hove said. "It does not need to be a single company, it also can be a framework of companies," added Laurent Malier, CEO of French research centre CEA-LETI.

The main concern of the industry is the slow decision process of the European institutions due to a complex political approval process inside of the European Union, the participants agreed. This industry is moving fast and so the decisions have to be taken fast, too. The strong Euro and the lack of qualified labor are further regarded as potential stumbling blocks for the technological progress and the business competitiveness.

Solid State Technology | Volume 56 | Issue 3 | May 2013