Advocating for Semiconductor Manufacturing Supply Chain in the EU

Advocating for Semiconductor Manufacturing Supply Chain in the EU

By Carlos Lee, SEMI Europe

During the last 25 years, the world economy has been touched by a revolution. The “knowledge-based” economy and the extensive use of advanced electronic devices have become the engine of the economic growth and a key element to boosting the productivity and the efficiency in both industrial and service sectors.

Today, the use of semiconductors is essential for the development of machines and electronic devices in a wide range of fields, from automotive to the telecommunication, from the most technological medical equipment to transportation and biotechnology. It is hard to predict what businesses will manufacture for the markets and for the consumers in 10 or 20 years. On the other hand, few doubt that the regions and the countries that will maintain leadership and hold onto their competitiveness will certainly be those who continue to invest in R&D in the most advanced technological segments, especially in high-tech. Within this future scenario, the semiconductor industry and its supply chain will play a crucial role.

For these reasons, Europe needs to maintain and enforce its world leadership in the manufacturing of semiconductors and all the players in the supply chain must cooperate to increase productivity and share capital and know-how. In addition, European semiconductor manufacturers and the supply chain need to increase their visibility in the continent through a collective voice.

By representing all the suppliers of equipment and materials used to manufacture semiconductors and many high-tech technologies (photovoltaic, flat panel display, MEMS, etc.) at the European level, SEMI acts as a collective voice of the industry. SEMI has over 2,000 members worldwide with 11 percent of its members based in Europe. SEMI supports industry growth through advocacy, international standards, expositions, EHS, research and collaboration.

The health of the semiconductor supply chain is relevant to the competitiveness of all of Europe. SEMI Europe aims to improve the visibility of its members at European level by stressing the importance of the semiconductor supply chain and the strong need to further public and private investments in R&D a priority for the European Union.

Five Actions that Support the Industry

Action #1: SEMI White Paper Recommendations to the EU

SEMI Europe has clearly documented its message and its proposals for a unique European vision of the industry of semiconductors by publishing a white paper entitled “6 Recommendations to the European Union and the National Governments to Increase Europe’s Microelectronic Industry Competitiveness.” In the White Paper, SEMI members highlight their concerns about the future development of the semiconductor industry in Europe, especially with respect to the increasing phenomenon of the delocalization of manufacturing and consequent transfer of knowledge-based activities.

SEMI Europe emphasizes the importance of the European Institutions and the member states to reinforce their commitments to the industry by taking into account the proposals listed in the White Paper. These recommendations, which were forwarded to the Institutions, comprise full support for the microelectronics supply chain by expanding the phenomenon of clustering and avoiding an unnecessary delocalization. Second, the white paper encourages the institutions to adopt proper legislation protecting and enforcing the intellectual property and to cultivate education and welcome talent. Finally, the SEMI members request an active involvement of SEMI Europe in New EHS Legislation development.

Action #2: SEMI Brussels Forum

To keep on raising the voice of the semiconductor supply chain in Europe and to give a general portrait of the issues and the challenges that this industry faces with respect to the entire European economy, SEMI Europe organized its 4th Brussels Forum in March 2010. The forum was attended by 200 people. including representatives of the European Commission, national governments, clusters, industry and R&D. The interactive discussion dealt with different issues: global competition within the sector, the importance of the R&D investments and the innovation, the significant role of clusters, and the impact of the industrial policies in terms of jobs and GDP contribution.

Action #3: European Commission’s Key Enabling Technologies and High-Level Groups

Finally, the importance of the semiconductors industry for the future of the European economy was officially recognized by the European Commission through its September 2009 communication, “Preparing for our Future: Developing a Common Strategy for Key Enabling Technologies in the EU”. Here, the European Commission pointed out the strategic role of the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) as driving forces of the development of the future goods and services.

Even more, through the Communication, the Commission set-up a high-level expert group composed of industry leaders and member state representatives. The main goal of this critical High Level Group (HLG) remains to formulate new proposals for developing European industry in the KETs.

Action #4: Appointment of Eight SEMI Members to the EC’s KET High Level Group

Eight SEMI members were appointed to the European Commission’s High Level Group, which is composed of 25 members. This is excellent for the whole semiconductor industry and supply chain and also for SEMI. The appointment for these SEMI members, who represent the segments at stake, represents a unique opportunity to strengthen the message of the importance of an industrial policy based on investments and R&D for the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries. Among the members of the HLG, particularly significant for SEMI, is the direct involvement of André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, president and CEO of SOITEC and the recently appointed chairman of the SEMI European Advisory Board.

The future challenges for the semiconductor supply chain are tied to the present debate around the renewable energies, namely photovoltaic, and to the climate change issue which will heavily influence a big part of the EU agenda and its policies in the next years. Other new developments will involve the field of the Photonics, the Micro-Nanoelectronics and nanotechnologies in general.

SEMI will continue to strengthen its initiatives to spread better public awareness of the importance of the semiconductor supply chain for the competitiveness of the European economy in the coming decades. Members of the organization continue to cooperate with the European Institutions by playing a decisive role within the High Level Group in regards to the Key Enabling Technologies.

Action #5: EU RoHS

SEMI is also involved in the EU Regulation on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). While the new EU proposals on RoHS include the need exclusion for large-scale stationary industrial tools (LSIT), unfortunately, some monitoring and control instruments that are embedded in the LSIT are not excluded from the legislation, which would definitely harm the semiconductor and PV industries in Europe. (Please see the RoHS article in this issue for details).

Taking Advocacy to a New Level

To achieve its goals, SEMI Europe has increased its initiatives during the last two years by organizing conferences, meetings and events with experts, interest representatives, press, Commission officers of in the most important EC Directorate General (Competition, Industry and Entrepreneurship, Internal Market, Trade, Research, Energy, Digital Agenda, Culture).

The goal is clear: to bring the importance of an EU semiconductor supply chain to the very core of the EU agenda so the industry gets more and more competitive at a global scale, especially in face of the massive public government investments in high-tech manufacturing in some of the Asian countries.

For more information, please contact Carlos Lee, SEMI Europe, Brussels Office at clee@semi.org.

September 8, 2010