2nm fab in Europe futile says report

April 12, 2021 // By Peter Clarke
European 2nm chip fab a "futile endeavour," says think tank
An independent think tank in Berlin concludes there is no business case to support the European production of 2nm chips as the US holds its second supply chain summit

Stiftung Neue Verantwortung eV in Berlin has prepared a  white paper on the prospects for leading edge 2nm chip produciton in Europe.

The paper addresses the 2030 Digital Compass  decadal plan produced by the European Commission, which sets out the aim to establish leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in the European Union (EU). The goal is to operate semiconductor fabrication plants (fabs) with 2nm process nodes within the EU by the end of this decade.

The paper comes as the US government holds its second summit on the semicomductor supply chain.

As director of the “Technology and Geopolitics” project, Jan-Peter Kleinhans focuses on the intersection of global semiconductor supply chains and geopolitics. T here are four potential routes for Europe towards 2nm, none of which look likely achieve the desired result he says:

  • Incentivize Samsung and or TSMC to invest in Europe.

  • Create an EU consortium to build and operate a fab using licensed process technology from Samsung or TSMC

  • Create an EU consortium to build and operate a fab using its own IP

  • Rely on Intel to create leading-edge foundry capability within Europe.

Kleinhans pointed that there is almost no inventive that Europe could provide to attract Samsung or TSMC to come to Europe because there is no significant customer base here. "The problem is a European foundry needs to attract US customers, which it will not," he said. Added to this is the issue that the cost of operating is considerably higher than in Asia because of electricity costs.

The think tank concludes that while building and equipping a 2nm wafer fab would be technically possible it would only be sustainable if supported by a robust business case. Otherwise it would represent a waste of tens of billions of euros that could be more usefully spent on other things. It would also run against the long term trend of Europe's reduced investment in

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