European 2nm project includes no chip companies

European 2nm project includes no chip companies
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The European Union and national governments are funding a project to pave the way for "world leadership in 2nm semiconductor technology," but no chip manufacturing companies are participating, unless you count research institute IMEC.
By Peter Clarke

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IC Technology for the 2nm Node, otherwise known as IT2, has a budget of €91,638,509.26 (about US$110 million) and the European Commission will contribute €20,831,386.99 (about US$25 million) – and yes they apparently measure things down to the cent of a euro. The project was established through the ECSEL [Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership] joint undertaking, which means that additional funding is also expected to be provided by national governments.

Reference to the project can be found in ECSEL’s 2019 annual activity report. Information is also available via the European Commission’s Cordis site.

The project nominally began on June 1, 2020 and runs until May 31, 2023 bringing it roughly in line with the joint declaration signed by the leading nations of Europe committing to invest in the production of processors and semiconductors (see Europe will try to rebuild semiconductor capability using pandemic recovery funds). That initiative, announced in December 2020, has the aim of designing and manufacturing trusted, low-power processors in Europe and the declaration document specifically mentioned the goal of using a 2nm process node in 2025.

As yet, the project does not seem to have its own website providing information on its work-plan or time-table of deliverables.

What we do know is that the IT2 project is led by the world’s leading lithography equipment company, ASML Holding NV (Veldhoven, The Netherlands), which will get €3 million (about US$3.6 million) of EU tax payers’ support, although research institute IMEC (Leuven, Belgium) will be the biggest beneficiary. It is earmarked to receive €5,511,240.44 (about US$6.6 million).

Next: 31 participants


There are 31 participants but none of them are chipmakers. The participants include European and Israel offices of Applied Materials, Cadence, KLA as well as other well-known European players in the semiconductor ecosystem including: EV Group, Soitec and Carl Zeiss.

And despite the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, SPTS Technologies Ltd. (Newport, Wales), a subsidiary of KLA Corp., is a member of the project and is set to receive €48,525.75 (about US$58,000).

The initiative is entirely focused on developing the building blocks of next-generation EUV lithography, definition of novel 3D structures and the assembly of circuits for a 2nm CMOS logic technology – think nanosheets and vertically oriented complementary transistors with under-surface power rails. Its scope covers lithography, processes, metrology, 3D structures, defect analysis, overlay.

Documents associated with IT2 stress that Europe is the world leader in relation to scaled semiconductor technology roadmaps and this project is intended to maintain competence in advanced More Moore technology in Europe.

The claim is that the project, by giving Europe’s semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry global leadership in 2nm CMOS technology, will help Europe to obtain a sovereign position in the electronics value-chain.

What it can only guarantee to do is perpetuate Europe’s status as a leading source of advance semiconductor technology and manufacturing equipment that it is unable or unwilling to deploy domestically. Finding domestic actors to implement the technology will need to be the subject of another project.

Related links and articles:

www.ecsel.eu

cordis.europa.eu

News articles:

Europe will try to rebuild semiconductor capability using pandemic recovery funds

Opinion: Money’s not the problem for Europe’s semiconductor rebuild

Applied set to replace ASML as top chip manufacturing equipment vendor

Irresistible Materials ramps production of EUV photoresist

China warns Netherlands over blocked ASML export

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