22. Januar 2021, 10:58 Uhr | Ralf Higgelke
The current semiconductor shortage reveals: Now is the time to act and to build up Europe as a microelectronics manufacturing center. In a new strategy paper, the VDE shows that the ship has not yet sailed for Germany. The association is therefore calling for a European master plan.
"Microelectronics must remain in Europe, we need a European technology strategy, a master plan," demanded the German Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (VDE) in a virtual press conference. In order to maintain prosperity in the long term, Europe must push the development of its own microelectronics manufacturing far more strongly and with greater commitment, it said. "The chip industry, which is system-relevant, has an impact on the entire national economy. The current crisis in the automotive industry clearly demonstrates how highly dependent our industry is on semiconductor manufacturers in Asia and the USA," explains the VDE. In the new position paper Hidden Electronics II, the technology experts analyze the status quo of microelectronics and show how both Germany and Europe can achieve technological sovereignty - if the political will is there.
What politics, industry and research should do now:
1. Establish an "Electronics for Europe" Master Plan
The measures taken so far are not sufficient because the strategic importance of microelectronics has been recognized, especially in the USA and China, and its development has been massively promoted for years there. Thus, Europe has the choice of continuing half-heartedly or drawing up its own "Electronics for Europe" master plan. A central element must be a coordinated European industry policy that ensures the production of microelectronic components in Europe. Germany must take the lead in defining this industry policy.
2. Establish Technological Sovereignty for Europe
The question of Europe's technological sovereignty is fundamental. The goal: to bring essential parts of the value chain into its own country. As has become clear now, Europe's industry cannot rely on the purchase of essential electronic components in global sourcing to always work and should therefore demand a certain share of value creation (local content) in Europe for electronic products sold on the European market. Europe can demand from the manufacturers that chips used here are also manufactured here in part. In this context, the large semiconductor manufacturers would also have to build fabs in Europe in order to be able to supply the European end market. The intellectual property and manufacturing technology must remain available in Europe.
3. Allow Greater Risks in Research
Research and innovation must be supported by the state with a much longer-term horizon. The usual three-year projects are by no means sufficient - a horizon of at least ten years is necessary for these programs for groundbreaking innovations and sound manufacturing know-how. The effort to prevent market manipulation is certainly honorable, but a global level playing field exists in the microelectronics sector only in some areas. Europe and Germany need more courage and persistence in promoting new disruptive technologies and application concepts.
4. Promote Young Talents and Start-ups
Europe's very diversified and very strong education system must be further expanded and the many smart minds must be inspired for technology developments and innovations. Europe must launch developments with strategic support, give the developments an environment and a protected space in which they can grow before they can stand on their own two feet as start-ups.
5. Establish business development and supplement it with direct government mandates.
Germany should learn urgently from successful business development programs in this area in the USA and Asia. Germany needs the courage to promote and expand business development in a targeted manner in order to eventually launch new innovative companies in strategically important areas. The state not only has the opportunity to generate knowledge at universities and research institutions, but should also take on a supporting and guiding role in the knowledge transfer to industry. Strategic priorities should be implemented both in long-term programs and in direct government contracts together with partners from industry and science.