Semiconductor independence ‘not doable’ says European competition commissioner

Semiconductor independence ‘not doable’ says European competition commissioner

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Europe's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has said that building up European self-sufficiency in semiconductors is unaffordable.
By Peter Clarke

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During an interview conducted with TV station CNBC she said that self-sufficiency was “not doable” for “as long as money don’t grow on trees.” She added: “What is important is that there is a different level of production capacity in Europe.”

She did, however, give a refined definition of European Union goals for semiconductor production in Europe. “At least 20 percent of the next-generation of chips should be produced in Europe,” Vestager said. It is not clear how Vestager defines next-generation; whether it means 3nm node digital logic or advances in gallium-nitride, silicon-carbide or fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator.

Vestager did confirm that the European Union will press ahead with a European Chips Act and a second IPCEI [important project of common European interest] on microelectronics but gave no indication on the timing or how much money would be dedicated to chip production (see ESIA tells European Commission to hurry up with IPCEI financial support and EU proposes Chips Act to build technology sovereignty).

These funding mechanisms will provide subsidies for first production capacity to be enabled but added that the subsidies have to be proportionate so as not to distort the market and only provide what is necessary, Vestager said.

“Even if the strategic focus is to have 20 percent of the leading-edge to be produced in Europe by 2030, in most advanced products you would find numerous chips of different sorts. Therefore it is also important to get the supply chain working well,” Vestager said.

Vestager also repeated the idea that Europe produces 10 percent of the world’s chips by value. She qualified this by saying the assertion could be made “on a good day.”

According to market research firm IC Insights Europe had 5.7 percent of the world’s installed wafer capacity as of December 2020, and given the lack of leading-edge production in Europe, by value Europe’s production could be considerably lower (see China rises in global IC wafer capacity ranking).

As long ago as 2014 IC Insights saw Europe’s share of 300mm IC manufacturing falling below 1 percent of world output (see Europe’s 300mm IC manufacturing falls below 1% of world output).

Vestager said Europe needs to take: “a global perspective and to see with whom we would want to have real interdependencies. Also politically to commit to help each other on a rainy day.”

Related links and articles:

ESIA tells European Commission to hurry up with IPCEI financial support

EU proposes Chips Act to build technology sovereignty

Europe’s 300mm IC manufacturing falls below 1% of world output).

European Commission forms processor, semiconductor alliance

China rises in global IC wafer capacity ranking

China will miss 2025 IC self-sufficiency goals

How sub-10nm manufacturing will take 25% of the chip market


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