European Commission repeats call for "Airbus of chips"

October 10, 2013 // By Peter Clarke
European Commission repeats call for "Airbus of chips"
Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the digital agenda, reiterated a call for the creation of an "Airbus of chips" in Europe in a video presentation she sent to International Electronics Forum, held in Dublin last week.

Kroes and the European Commission are also adamant that they want to reverse the trend that has seen chip manufacturing in Europe declining as a percentage of global production. The Commission plans for Europe to be responsible for 20 percent  of global chip manufacturing by 2020.

As Europe is currently down at 10 or 7 percent and there are major wafer fab construction plans in place around the world to achieve this goal would require the construction of 4 or 5 wafer fabs in Europe over the next few years, some delegates at the IEF event estimated.

Kroes has gone on record several times saying that nanoelectronics – including intellectual property, design and manufacturing – is strategic to the future of European wealth creation. She has appealed for companies based here to find common cause and to recreate the success represented by the formation of Airbus.

Airbus was the result of the politically driven consolidation of European defence and aerospace companies in 1999 and 2000 to form a single European champion aircraft maker with enough scale to compete with global rivals such as Boeing.

However, there have been few discernible moves to heed Kroes's call. Although Europe has a strong position in semiconductor research a world leading chipmaking equipment company in ASML Holding NV, the commercial IC sales sector is fragmented and has largely moved to a fabless or fab-lite model. While many of these European chip companies have been happy to take European Commission money to support their R&D few show much appetite for capital expense of manufacturing.

Addressing the IEF attendees through the pre-recorded video Kroes said: "Airbus-of-chips is a shorthand, not just for manufacturing but also for design and technology and for wafers moving above 450mm wafers and [ICs] at below 20nm," Kroes said. that in May the Commission had come up with a strategy and in July with the public-private partnership known as ECSEL.

The announcement

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