Despite some economic woes in recent years, Europe remains dedicated to building a strong electronics industry. This was brought home to me recently when, in advance of Semicon Europa (October 7-10 in Dresden), I had a chance to talk with Heinz Kundert, president of SEMI Europe. “There are several initiatives like the KET (key enabling technology) initiative that are working on the same goals to increase the competitiveness but also to get more manufacturing back to Europe,” he said. One of these is the Horizon 2020 effort, the EU’s new program for research and innovation is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe, which will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of just over €70 billion (some announcement during Europa is planned). France also announced Nano 2017 and plans to invest approximately €3.5 billion in France up to 2017 in nanoelectronics.
Another interesting project, specifically aimed at boosting semiconductor manufacturing in Europe is the 10/100/20 program, which has a goal of generating €10 Billion in public/private funding for R&D, €100 billion euros investment for manufacturing, and 20% share of global chip production market by 2020. Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President, commented in May of this year: “I want to double our chip production to around 20% of global production. It’s a realistic goal if we channel our investments properly. A rapid and strong coordination of public investment at EU, Member State and regional level is needed to ensure that transformation.”
Already, some significant progress has been made. Five new pilot lines were launched in May 2013 under the ENIAC Joint Undertaking (EU public-private funding program), worth over €700 million and bringing together over 120 partners. These pilot lines allow research centers and companies to cooperate across borders to test and perfect new technologies and tools, such as: technologies and equipment for GaN-based substrates; 450mm equipment and materials; 300 mm power semiconductors; new MEMS materials and packaging; and 28/20nm FD SOI.
In the past, Europe was home to around 17% of global semiconductor manufacturing, but that has declined to around 6-7% today. Turning that around to reach 20% in the next seven years will be a challenge, but where there’s a will there’s a way. “Although there are a lot of issues, and a lot of details that need to be clarified – many people are questioning whether it’s possible or not possible — but what I see is positive thinking and this is most important,” Kundert said.
If you plan to visit Semicon Europa and want to learn more, you’re in luck. “We will address all these issues on public funding, public/private partnership vision at Semicon,” Kundert said. There will be an executive summit this is addressing that issue, as well as sessions on funding to explain how SMEs (equipment suppliers) can participate. “Projects are going to be presented so people understand what’s behind all these initiatives and visions and big numbers,” he added.