“Support the Semiconductor Industry,” SEMI Europe Urges the EU and European National Governments
On December 9–10, the 3rd SEMI Brussels Forum was held by SEMI Europe with the participation of ESIA (European Semiconductor Industry Association). The forum called on EU and national policymakers to invest to support the European semiconductor industry given the primary importance of the industry to the health and global competitiveness of the EU economy.
One of the highlights of the 3rd SEMI Brussels Forum was the SEMI European Advisory Board visit to Viviane Reding, European Commission VP. Heinz Kundert presented Reding with a 300 mm wafer.
The forum gathered 142 people representing the various stakeholders, and the presence of senior executives from the industry clearly demonstrates both their concern and support. In total, 16 countries were represented including Russia, Israel and UAE. About twenty officials from the European Commission attended, as well as heads from industry and educational organizations, including: IMEC, Minalogic, Fraunhofer, CEA-Leti, UCD Dublin, TNO, and IET. From “Clusters,” attendees included: Point One (Netherlands), Silicon Saxony (Germany), AEPI (France) and more. Associations included: JEMI France, JEMI UK, NMI, ESIA, ENIAC, CORDIS, and AENEAS. Solvay Solexis hosted the event.
The basis for the Brussels Forum was the recently released SEMI White Paper, “6 Recommendations to the European Union and National Governments to Increase Europe’s Microelectronic Industry Competitiveness.” The six recommendations are:
1. Develop a European Vision for the Industry
2. Increase Funding for R&D and Manufacturing
3. Promote the Microelectronics Supply Chain
4. Cultivate Education and Welcome Talent
5. Protect and Enforce Intellectual Property
6. Involve SEMI Europe in New EHS Legislation
The Forum began with an overview of the semiconductor equipment and materials industry by SEMI Europe President Heinz Kundert. Kundert emphasized the 215,000 direct high-skills jobs throughout the semiconductor supply chain in Europe and the contributions that the enabling technology of semiconductors provide to many other critical sectors. Enrico Villa, senior advisor to the CEO and COO of STMicroelectronics and Vice President of ESIA, discussed the landscape for the device industry. Villa urged the government to adopt an industry policy for the microelectronics industry and urged the industry to build upon its strengths.
Fifteen expert speakers from government, industry and research organizations discussed key competitiveness issues through three panels: 1) Vision; 2) R&D and Manufacturing; and 3) Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Clusters. Some of the key themes from each panel are included here:
Panel One: Vision
- There is a need for a concerted effort within the European Union government as well as cooperation with member states to promote the industry. Politicians at many levels must be more proactive and must recognize that it is not an issue of competition within Europe but rather a global competition.
- The industry must organize better within Europe and partner with customers, downstream industries and others to promote the vision for the industry’s future in Europe.
- In cases of unfair competition from outside the EU, companies are encouraged to compile information about these practices and work with government to level the playing field.
- The industry must make it clear to both policymakers and the public that the industry is a key to the reindustrialization of Europe, particularly since this sector offers the technology upon which so many other sectors are based and can help solve pressing societal challenges, such as the development of renewable energies.
Panel Two: R&D and Manufacturing
- While different models exist, there is often a strong link between R&D and manufacturing. Panelists emphasized the need for companies to exploit ideas, use R&D investments efficiently and to remain innovative.
- While funding from the European Union is available, the structure is complex with many agencies involved in addition to the member states. Lack of coordination among countries poses challenges.
- R&D projects rely on highly-skilled professionals. A key challenge is continued availability of and access to talent, particularly for a cyclical industry.
Panel Three: SMEs and Clusters
- The cluster model has proven to be quite effective by bring together industry, universities and research centers and capitalizing on the interconnections among them. Noteworthy European semiconductor clusters include Grenoble, Saxony and the Nijmegen/Eindhoven/Leuven triangle.
- Much of the industry’s growth is concentrated among SMEs— about 85 percent of SEMI’s membership— with clusters also receiving critical support from the larger players.
- Panelists recommend creating a network of clusters to work in partnership to promote the collective industry in Europe.
The SEMI European Advisory Board made eight visits to the European Parliament and Commission (DG Trade, DG Information Society and Media, DG Enterprise and Industry, DG Internal Market) on 9 December, in total reaching out to over 40 people from the European Commission. These visits reminded the European Commission of the importance of the semiconductor industry, not just for itself, but for the competitiveness of Europe in general as it is an enabling industry for other key European industry segments such as automotive, telecommunication, energy, and e-health. For instance, Germany depends on modern ICT applications for 80% of their exports. While 20% of the cost in these high value-add products comes form electronics, 100% of their performance and innovation comes from electronics. The semiconductor industry is a driver of innovation, and the service industry it powers represents 10% of the GDP.
As a result of the successful SEMI Brussels Forum, the SEMI European Advisory Board is preparing a strategy to continue to promote the vision for the industry with high level officials. Working together, we can improve the competitiveness of the semiconductor equipment and materials industry in Europe and foster a positive environment for a critical technology sector.
From the feedback received, urgent follow-up actions include: 1.) follow-up and present again actionable items to the European Commission, with backing of the industry ‘at large’ and 2.) work also at national level.
Gilbert Declerck, president and CEO, IMEC
Heinz Kundert, president, SEMI Europe
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, president and CEO, Soitec
Werner Mohr, vice-chairman Programmes, Catrene
Franz Richter, president and CEO, Thin Materials
6 January 2009