The development of secure, embedded low power processors, plus advanced 2nm process technology are the key objectives of a declaration signed by 17 European Union (EU) member states as part of a collaborative effort to give Europe a stronger position in the global semiconductor design and manufacturing ecosystem.
The agreement, signed remotely this week over a video conference, recognizes the importance of secure, trusted next generation embedded processors that will be needed to deliver the foundational technology expected to be needed for new ‘smart’ connected devices, products and services both today and in the future.
The EU agreement will allocate up to €145bn funding over the next 2-3 years to allow the member states, industrial stakeholders and small and medium sized enterprises to cooperate and engage in efforts to co-invest in semiconductor technologies across the full value chain. This will involve establishing strategic roadmaps and research and investment plans for processor design, deployment and fabrication that takes into account the full semiconductor ecosystem.
The European leaders want this to contribute to a substantial increase in the production capability in Europe of semiconductors and embedded systems across the value chain, and an increase in processor chips with significant improvements in energy performance and speed by 2025.
To do this, it will set up a multi-country and inclusive European ‘flagship project’ through the development of a proposal for an ‘important project of common European interest’ (IPCEI) that aims to create a strong dynamic to bolster Europe’s electronics industry with a focus on the design ecosystem, supply chain capabilities and first industrial deployment of advanced semiconductor technologies, including scaling towards leading-edge 2nm process technologies for processor chips.
The importance of embedded security is implied in the declaration and given a brief mention in the last line of the agreement, in which the member states agree to:
“Work towards common standards and, where appropriate, certification for trusted electronics, as well as common requirements for procurement of secure chips and embedded systems in applications that rely on or make extensive use of chip technology.”
The European governments have realized that globally, major regions are reinforcing their local semiconductor ecosystems with a view to avoiding excessive dependencies on imports, and so it needs to address the imbalance.
In the declaration, it said Europe today has notable strengths in specific areas of the semiconductor industry, such as power electronics, RF technologies, smart sensors for embedded artificial intelligence (AI), microcontrollers, low-power technologies, secure components and semiconductor manufacturing equipment. It adds that European chipmakers enjoy a strong global presence in vertical markets such as embedded systems for automotive and industrial manufacturing. Europe also has a strong technological position in mobile networks including current 5G and emerging 6G technologies.
However, it states, Europe’s share of the €440 billion global semiconductor market is around 10%, well below its economic standing. Europe is increasingly dependent on chips produced in other regions of the world – notably those used for electronic communications, data-processing and compute tasks, including processors.
In order to ensure Europe’s technology sovereignty and competitiveness, and its capacity to address key environmental and societal challenges and new emerging mass markets, the EU leaders said they need to strengthen Europe’s capacity to develop the next generation of processors and semiconductors. This includes chips and embedded systems that offer the best performance for specific applications across a wide range of sectors as well as leading-edge manufacturing progressively advancing towards 2nm nodes for processor technology.
It adds, “Using connectivity, where Europe enjoys global lead, as a major use case driver for developing such capacity enables Europe to set the right level of ambition. This will require a collective effort to pool investment and to coordinate actions, by both public and private stakeholders.”
The signatories to the declaration said they have agreed to work together to strengthen Europe’s capabilities to design and eventually fabricate the next generation of trusted, low-power processors, for applications in high-speed connectivity, automated vehicles, aerospace and defence, health and agri food, artificial intelligence, data centers, integrated photonics, supercomputing and quantum computing, amongst other initiatives to bolster the whole electronics and embedded systems value chain.
Their aim is to create synergies among national research and investment initiatives and ensuring a coherent European approach of sufficient scale. It will also build on and expand collective efforts from other European undertakings, such as the European Processor Initiative and the existing IPCEI on microelectronics. This will require investments from the EU budget, national budgets and the private sector.
The 17 member states who signed the declaration are: Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, Romania, Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus.
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