Silicon Europe pressures EU on chip startups, training

Silicon Europe pressures EU on chip startups, training

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By Nick Flaherty

Silicon Europe, a group of chip and technology companies, is pressuring the EU to move faster with its support for the industry, particularly for training engineers and supporting the 10,000 smaller companies in the region.

The group released a position paper at Semicon Europe last week, highlighting these specific needs as part of the European CHIPS Act rather than the large subsidies for new wafer fabs. It also wants to see better access to small, agile production and test facilities.

 “Now it is crucial that the implementation of the European Chips Act becomes reality as quickly as possible,” said Frank Bösenberg, managing director of Silicon Saxony representing the fabs in the German cluster. “Everyone involved in Brussels and Berlin must follow their words with deeds, finalize the framework conditions and start the funding programs. As a high-tech industry association, we support the industry in its demands for the implementation of the European chip law,” he said.

Even though the semiconductor industry is highly consolidated, there are also more than 2000 companies active solely within the Silicon Europe Alliance. In total, there are almost 10.000 companies within the sector in Europe, the vast majority of them being SMEs including start-ups

The entire value chain, from chip design and manufacture to end-users must be fostered within Europe, says the paper. As an alliance that represents clusters whose focus is Europe’s active small and medium enterprise (SME) community, Silicon Europe hopes to see further development of mechanisms, strategies, and (reworked) regulations specifically helpful to these companies along the whole value chain, including pre-production as well as packaging, assembling and applications.

Europe’s plans to increase the market share in the global chip sector to 20% within the next decade are facing the fact of a decreasing workforce in general. Boosting the European Semiconductor industry will definitely require more highly skilled employees.

It is proposing a a European-wide CHIPS Education Programme as well as an Entrepreneurship Launchpad and Accelerator for young chip entrepreneurs and university programmes to attract researchers. It also suggests retention programmes for the ageing workforce including life wide learning offers as well as incentives for later retirement.

SMEs will need prototyping facilities as well as production facilities for smaller series. Currently such facilities are very hard to find for SMEs as the large fabs cannot interrupt their production for just a small run. There are facilities throughout Europe, mainly at the university level, but these are not open for SMEs.

It proposes a permanent program that provides the existing facilities with top technology and processes and are open for SMEs on short notice and for limited periods of time would make the performance of the SMEs much more fruitful.

The paper is pushing for SMEs to have more say in the “Chips Joint Undertaking” (CJU) that will decide funding, not just as the SME-component in a large organisation project. Cluster organisations such as Silicon Europe and Silicon Saxony can play an important role here by accepting larger program from the CJU and distributing the funds to the SMEs as cascade funding. This mechanism has proven to be very successful in attracting SMEs to EU-projects by schemes like INNOSUP within Horizon 2020, it says.

In this way the important role of SMEs in enlarging the European semiconductor ecosystem can be better leveraged.

Another important component is the support of respective start-ups. It is proposing a separate scheme within the EIC accelerator specifically for semiconductor technologies, ranging from improving existing technologies up to the uptake of new topic such as quantum computing. However this scheme as already struggled with assessing projects and delivering the funds needed.

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