The EU will use the legislation to push for greater resilience and sovereignty in regional semiconductor supply chains.
The bloc’s president followed an upcoming “European Chips Act” in a State of the Union speech today. Ursula von der Leyen has suggested that achieving greater autonomy in chipmaking is now a key part of the EU’s overall digital strategy.
She pointed to the global semiconductor shortage, which has led to a slowdown in production of a range of products that rely on chips to drive data processing – from cars and trains to smartphones and other consumer electronics. – as the source of concern among EU lawmakers about European capacity. in this area.
“There is no digital without chips,” said von der Leyen. “As we speak, entire production lines are already running at slow speeds – despite increasing demand – due to a shortage of semiconductors.
“But as global demand has exploded, Europe’s share of the entire value chain, from design to manufacturing capacity, has shrunk. We depend on advanced chips made in Asia. So it’s not just a question of competitiveness. It is also a question of technological sovereignty. So let’s focus on that. “
The chip law will aim to link the EU’s semiconductor research, design and testing capabilities, she said, calling for “coordination” between European and national investments in this area to help strengthen the self-sufficiency of the block.
“The aim is to jointly create a European chip ecosystem at the cutting edge of technology, including production. This guarantees our security of supply and will develop new markets for revolutionary European technology, ”she added.
The EU president presented the ambition to boost European chip capability as a “daunting task”, but compared the mission to what the bloc did with its Galileo satellite navigation system two decades ago. .
“Today, European satellites provide the navigation system to more than 2 billion smartphones around the world. We are world leaders. So let’s be bold again, this time with semiconductors.
In follow-up remarks, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton put a little more flesh on the bones of the legislative plan – saying the Commission wants to integrate Member States’ efforts into a ‘coherent’ pan-European strategy for semi -conductors and also create a framework “to avoid a race for national public subsidies fragmenting the single market”.
The aim will be to “set the conditions to protect European interests and place Europe firmly in the global geopolitical landscape”, he added.
Per Breton, the Chip Act will include three elements: First, a semiconductor research strategy which will aim to build on the work carried out by institutions such as IMEC in Belgium, LETI / CEA in France and Fraunhofer in Germany.
“Building on the existing research partnership (the KDT Joint Undertaking), we need to improve our game and devise a strategy to take Europe’s research ambitions to the next level while preserving our strategic interests,” said he noted.
The second part will consist of a collective plan to strengthen European chip manufacturing capacities.
He said planned legislation will aim to support monitoring and resilience of the chip supply chain across design, production, packaging, equipment and suppliers (e.g. wafer producers) .
The objective will be to support the development of European “mega fabs” capable of producing high volumes of the most advanced semiconductors (around 2 nm and less) and energy efficient.
However, the EU does not foresee a future where it can manufacture all the chips it needs on its own.
The last part of the European Chip Act will establish a framework for international cooperation and partnership.
“The idea is not to produce everything ourselves here in Europe. In addition to making our local production more resilient, we need to devise a strategy for diversifying our supply chains in order to reduce overdependence on a single country or region, ”Breton continued. “And while the EU aims to remain the world’s leading destination for foreign investment and we welcome foreign investment to help increase our production capacity, especially in high-end technologies, through the European chip law , we will also put in place the right conditions to preserve Europe. Security of supply. “
“The United States is now discussing a massive investment under the American Chips Act to fund the creation of a US research center and to help open advanced production plants. The goal is clear: to increase the resilience of US semiconductor supply chains, ”he added.
“Taiwan is positioning itself to ensure its primacy over semiconductor manufacturing. China is also trying to bridge the technology gap as it is constrained by export control rules to avoid technology transfers. Europe cannot and will not be left behind.
In additional documents released today, the EU said the chip law would build on other digital initiatives already presented by the Von der Leyen Commission, such as measures to contain the power of the giants of the Internet “gatekeepers” and to increase the accountability of platforms (the law on digital markets and the law on digital services); regulate high-risk applications of AI (the law on artificial intelligence); fight against online disinformation (via a strengthened code of conduct); and stimulate investment in regional digital infrastructure and skills.