Silicon Europe Pressurises EU on Chip Startups and Training

Silicon Europe, a conglomerate of semiconductor and tech firms, is pleading with the EU to expedite its support for the industry.

FREMONT, CA: A collection of semiconductor and technology companies called Silicon Europe is urging the EU to speed up its assistance for the sector, especially in training engineers and assisting the 10,000 small businesses in the area. In contrast to the significant subsidies for new wafer fabs, the group's position paper at Semicon Europe last week emphasised these particular demands as a component of the European CHIPS Act. Additionally, it wants easier access to compact, flexible production and testing facilities.

Despite the high level of consolidation in the semiconductor business, the Silicon Europe Alliance alone is home to more than 2000 companies. In Europe, the industry is home to almost 10.000 businesses overall, the vast majority of which are SMEs, including start-ups.

The report asserts that the entire value chain must be promoted within Europe, from chip design and manufacturing to end users. Silicon Europe is an alliance of clusters with a shared interest in developing mechanisms, strategies, and (reworked) regulations that are specifically beneficial to these businesses along the entire value chain, including pre-production, packaging, assembling, and applications.

The fact that the workforce is generally shrinking may affect Europe's efforts to raise its market share in the global semiconductor business to 20 per cent during the next ten years. Increasing the number of highly skilled workers is unquestionably necessary to grow the European semiconductor sector.

In addition to an Entrepreneurship Launchpad and Accelerator for new chip businesses and university programmes to draw researchers, it proposes a CHIPS Education Program for all of Europe. Additionally, it recommends retention strategies for the ageing workforce, including lifetime learning opportunities and incentives for postponing retirement.

SMEs will require production facilities for both smaller series and prototyping. SMEs now have difficulty finding such facilities because giant fabs cannot stop production for a modest run. In Europe, facilities exist, mostly at the university level, but SMEs cannot use them. The performance of the SMEs would be significantly improved by a permanent programme that upgrades the current facilities' technology and operational procedures while keeping them accessible to SMEs on short notice and for a short time.

The article advocates for SMEs to participate more actively in the Chips Joint Undertaking (CJU) that will decide to fund rather than just as an SME component in a project involving a major organisation. By accepting larger programmes from the CJU and transferring the monies to the SMEs as cascade funding, cluster organisations like Silicon Europe and Silicon Saxony can play a significant role in this situation. According to the report, this mechanism has been particularly effective in luring SMEs to EU projects through initiatives like INNOSUP under Horizon 2020.