Silicon Europe – The Leaders for Energy Efficient ICT Electronics
An alliance of Europe’s leading micro- and nanoelectronics clusters
Micro- and nanoelectronics and especially information- and communication technologies (ICT) have always been one of Europe’s centres of expertise – since the beginning of the technology development European researches where a vital part of emerging innovations in this field. But since the 1990ies the crucial know-how of this key technology is more and more leaving Europe: Because of a lacking political visibility for the strategic importance of European micro- and nanoelectronics and an extensive public funding scheme especially in Asia, the leading fabs are shifting to anywhere but Europe – followed by the leading labs and their decisive research & development expertise.
The threat: European microelectronics becomes irrelevant
Today, there are only a few global players left in Europe that can face the international competition, neither is there a mass production of profitable sectors such as electronics, mobile and entertainment electronics. This means that revenue and jobs are more and more leaving for non-European industry sites. The numbers show: In comparison to the US or Asian market, European ICT is losing its ground. In 2011 only 10 per cent of the global revenue of USD 2.8 trillion was made in Europe – and experts are expecting for this number to drop even further (AT Kearney, The Future of Europe’s High-Tech Industry). The same is the case with market shares: In the last 10 years no European enterprise entered the Global Top 20 microelectronic companies. The remaining three in the Top 20 are constantly losing market shares (Oliver Wyman, Vision for European Semiconductor Companies).
Increasing political awareness for the importance of European micro- and nanoelectronics
Micro- and nanoelectronics is ubiquitous – there is no computer, mobile, appliance or even car without it. Electronic components also contribute to improving manufacturing processes or to enabling new communication technologies. That makes them a key driver for innovation for almost all sectors and industrial fields. In the last years, change has been seen in the European economic policy: The European Commission named micro- and nanoelectronics one of Europe’s Key Enabling Technologies (KET), thus acknowledging its importance for the development of the European industries as well as the EU’s prosperity.
As one of the Key Enabling Technologies, micro- and nanoelectronics, including semiconductors, are essential for all goods and services which need intelligent control in sectors as diverse as automotive and transportation, aeronautics and space. Smart industrial control systems permit more efficient management of electricity generation, storage, transport and consumption through intelligent electrical grids and devices. Smart control systems are also crucial to increasing the efficiency and reducing the unwanted emissions related to the use of conventional fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) in all its forms and applications.
The keys to future European microelectronics
In addition to the political awareness for the importance of ICT, more needs to be done in order to secure Europe’s position in ICT. All of the players in European microelectronics – research, industry and administration – need to join their forces. The vision for the future of microelectronics in all its traditional sites needs to be backed not only by national players but also on a European level. This goes hand in hand with sound R&D initiatives on EU and the national level that help accelerate development and support the SME dominated microelectronics industry in realising innovations they can hardly finance individually. Also, the transfer of innovations from research to the market needs to be supported. Currently, too few of the leading-edge research results are being made into marketable products. This “valley of death” needs to be bridged. Furthermore, the focus must be put on the training and recruiting of highly qualified experts. The current lack of qualified staff can only be changed by attracting more students in the ICT relevant fields of natural science, mathematics and engineering, and also welcoming foreign experts to the European industry.
Europe’s chance: Energy-efficient ICT
In the light of the dominating Asian production and the innovative strength of North America, Europe needs to focus its microelectronics expertise on technology that becomes more and more relevant: Energy-efficient ICT. This technology allows the European ICT industry to secure its strong position in global microelectronics, since it is crucial for one of the main challenges – the dramatic increase of the global energy demand that comes with the significantly increasing use of electronics. By 2030, an increase by 50% to 160,500 billion kWh is forecasted, and there will be another doubling to 321,000 billion kWh by 2050 (Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050, 2011 Shell International BV). Europe’s largest microelectronics cluster in Saxony/Germany has already shown that focusing on a promising technology aspect can be an important accelerator for economic growth. This promising technology is energy-efficient ICT. Focusing on energy-efficiency along the whole value chain of the European economy based on the model of the “Saxon way” and joining forces on this goal is a chance for European microelectronics. It helps securing the competitiveness of European microelectronics on a global scale. That is why European partners are working together in the cluster alliance “Silicon Europe – The Leaders for Energy Efficient ICT Electronics”.
A European cluster alliance for energy-efficient ICT
Silicon Europe – that are the technological expertise and resources of Europe’s leading players in micro- and nanoelectronics. They join forces to strengthen Europe’s position as the world’s leading centre for energy efficient electronics while effectively working to counteract the increasing energy demand.
Europe’s microelectronic sites are globally renowned for their particular competencies in semiconducting and energy-efficient electronics. Driven by the German cluster, Silicon Europe unites all these strong clusters to form a European alliance with access to the most advanced technologies and expertise in all fields of microelectronics applications. This cluster of clusters stands for a whole new quality of transnational collaboration and a combined innovative strength that will significantly contribute to the future competitiveness of the European economy.
The right decisions are being made
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, just announced that the EU wants to “cut the current fragmented landscape, connect up players along the value chain, from design to production equipment to production itself, and make Europe a global powerhouse for electronics.”. To reach this goal the European Commission launched a campaign for coordinated public investments in micro- and nanoelectronics aiming to mobilise EUR 100 billion in new private investments on May 24, 2013. This shows that Silicon Europe’s voice is heard in Brussels.