The European Way to Global Competitiveness

The European Way to Global Competitiveness

By Heinz Kundert, president, SEMI Europe

Despite the worldwide indebtedness crisis and the tiresome discussion on the Euro, the semiconductor industry has proven to be quite robust. Silicon has become a strategic material for any product or production process without exception. It seems that there is simply no innovation anymore without silicon. However, the semiconductor market is at the brink of change. Several disruptive technologies entering the market will put pressure on individual companies and entire regions. Among them: the transition to 450mm for large scale production, 3D-IC TSV, and the move to new lithography technologies. To achieve the desired level of competitiveness, measured in the number of new innovations, growing GDP and more jobs, three roadblocks exist and need to be removed.

First of all, time is critical. Competitiveness cannot wait. It needs to happen now. The semiconductor industry is the fastest-moving industry around: if we are not going forward quickly, we are losing ground. The Key Enabling Technology (KET) initiative was formally announced by the European Commission in July 2012. Now we are waiting to see a solid implementation plan containing goals, roles and responsibilities — concrete milestones to be worked out in a public private partnership. This needs to happen quickly so that we do not lose the momentum that the KET has generated. 

The second issue concerns the coordination between the European Commission and the member states. It looks like that the Commission is ahead of the game — and needs backing up by the leading EU states in this industry which are among others, Germany and France. We are afraid that this process will consume too much time and will further delay the implementation of meaningful actions.

The third issue revolves around the consolidation of EU funding programs. How will KET be implemented? Who will get how much? There are still many open questions which need to be answered. Many in the industry are afraid that there will be a dilution and that the strategic idea behind KET will get lost with too many single funding projects rather than a more focused strategic approach.

Clearly, it is of great importance that the European semiconductor industry — that includes all stakeholders from material and equipment makers up to the small- and large-scale device manufacturers — will speak with one voice to the European Commission and governments of member states. Competitiveness on a large scale can only materialize on a European-wide industry understanding. Capital spending has reached a level where single companies or countries will not be in a position anymore to keep pace with latest technology and critical mass.

I’ll see you at SEMICON Europa, October 9-11, in Dresden.

Work with us as we convene key semiconductor supply chain players, policy makers in the EU, and member states. Your support is crucial. This is your opportunity to help facilitate the process and expedite the journey to global competitiveness — that will bring Europe great products, growth and employment.


October 2, 2012