SEMI Europe aims to increase region’s competitiveness

by Françoise von Trapp, managing editor, Advanced Packaging

Oct. 8, 2008 — In an effort to increase Europe’s microelectronic industry competitiveness, SEMI has published a white paper outlining six recommendations, including increased R&D funding, cultivating the workforce, and protecting and enforcing IP.

Heinz Kundert, president of SEMI Europe, explained the impetus for the recommendations (which he says were supported by 80-90% of the people in the ecosystem), as well as the outcome, during a presentation at SEMICON Europa in Stuttgart, Germany (Tuesday, Oct. 7). “SEMI members worry that a further decline of the mainstream microelectronics manufacturing base will have a negative impact on Europe’s overall competitiveness,” he stated.

The white paper recommendations include:

– Develop a “European” vision and identity for the industry, with more intensive coordination between the EU and the member states;
– Increase funding for R&D and manufacturing, including consolidation of R&D initiatives on EU and the national level, notably for the “More Moore” and “More than Moore” projects;
– Promote the microelectronics supply chain, from existing semiconductor “clusters” to adopting small business-friendly legislation, and supporting dedicated smaller fabs working on devices for new and emerging applications;
– Address a labor shortage by cultivating education and welcoming foreign talent, at both the EU and national level;
Protect and enforce IP by working with trading partners and proposing/adopting an effective EU patent scheme; and
– Involve SEMI Europe “at the earliest possible stage” in new environmental/health/safety (EHS) legislation — notably inclusion with REACH regulation and PFOS/RoHS directives.

The past two years haven’t been kind to Europe’s chip industry in particular — citing a reduction of manpower in IC fabs, outsourcing manufacturing to other regions, a shift in priorities from growth to short-term profitability, lack of new fabs, migration to a fabless model, and shrinking margins due to economics and unbalanced funding when compared with other areas.

On the upside, though, Kundert cited investment initiatives by sponsored by the EU and national governments, which include funding for state-of-the-art technology, Germany’s initiatives in “clusters of excellence” such as wireless and solar markets, a €3.6B program backed by France aimed at Crolles3, a mobilization of strengths by the Dresden city/state of Saxony, and an infusion of $25B of funds into ICT technology by Russia in the next two years. “There are attractive programs to make sure the industry keeps up,” he said. With 37% of the world’s GDP, high-tech and low-cost manufacturing, and world-class R&D facilities and education, Kundert said there was no reason not to be in Europe with manufacturing. He added that Europe holds leading positions in telecommunications, automotive electronics, health, and energy.

As example of the region’s commitment to growth, Kundert cited Bosch’s plans to build a 200mm foundry equipped with refurbished equipment — “exactly what the industry needs,” he said. He also cited Abu Dhabi’s partnership with AMD to establish a new company comprising AMD’s two facilities in Dresden, Germany and a future fab in upstate NY as a good move, giving hope that there could be a new foundry model developing.

Elsewhere at SEMICON Europa, SEMI handed out two annual awards for industry leadership. The European SEMI Award 2008, for a person (or people’s) significant contribution to the European semiconductor and micro-systems industries (SEMI has now tacked on photovoltaics and display as well), goes to IMEC CO Gilbert Declerck, for leading IMEC into one of the world’s most prestigious independent microelectronics research institutes. And Roy Blunt, special projects manager at IQE, was given SEMI Europe’s Standards Honor Award, for his work establishing SEMI Europe’s Standards Compound Technical Committee, and his contributions to development of compound-related standards and guidelines. — F.v.T.


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