EC announced the first projects as part of new EU Electronics strategy

Brussels, 30-5-2013 — / — The European Commission is today announcing a collection of five major projects, to boost Europe’s manufacturing competitiveness by bringing research closer to industrial needs. These projects are the first steps in putting into effect the European Electronics strategy of 23 May.

The 5 so-called “Pilot lines” put research at the heart of electronics manufacturing. They do this by linking up 128 partners, so that European manufacturers work directly with technology companies, chip designers, researchers, and universities at the very earliest stages of product development. The purpose is to develop the kind of innovative microchips which will give European industry and products a global competitive edge.

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes says: ‘We do not have any time to waste. These projects will make a vital contribution to implementing our electronics strategy. And by end 2013 I want to see the industry’s plan to achieve a doubling of chip production to around 20% of global production’.

To this end, a large consultation is underway and today Vice-President Kroes is meeting Ministers from regional and national governments, CEOs from major European semiconductor manufacturers, and the world-leading researchers to discuss the implementation of the new Strategy.

The Commission will provide €100 million to support these 5 pilot lines (funding totals over €700m when contributions from Member States and industry are included).

This is also the first time that the European electronics industry will be able to have direct access to this scale of experimental research facility, thanks to the more than 120 partners involved.

The pilot lines being developed are:

  1. The French AGATE pilot line in Bernin. This project aims at generating affordable, industrial grade substrates using a revolutionary new material, gallium nitride, that will considerably enhance the performance and reduce the power consumed by electric vehicles, e.g. by lighting systems using light emitting diodes (LED). The project of 10 partners will end in December 2015. It involves the whole value chain from materials suppliers to end-users through equipment, device and system integration companies.
  2. The joint Dutch-Belgian E450EDL pilot line in Leuven & Veldhoven. Electronics components are increasingly pervasive in our life thanks to continuously declining costs and increasing performance. Future technologies will cut costs by using new basic materials. To consolidate the Europe leadership in this field, the E450EDL pilot line based in Leuven & Veldhoven will establish a realistic environment in which 43 partners from 11 countries will be able to validate novel equipment, materials and first processing sequences, until September 2016.
  3. The Austrian EPPL pilot line in Villach. Important European goals in greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and electro-mobility can be pursued using by so-called power electronic components. This pilot line will work on building power devices on ultra-thin large area silicon substrates, reinforcing the strong European position in cost-effective leading-edge components. 31 partners are involved until March 2016.
  4. The Italian Lab4MEMS in Agrate. Tiny devices for sensing, so called microsystems, are the enablers of many innovations such as accelerometers, gyroscopes or microphones used in car air bags or in portable phones. This project aims at expanding the European leadership position in relevant fields by including novel materials with magnetic and piezoelectric properties and provide advanced packaging solutions. The 20 partners will work until June 2015 at 9 locations to develop the necessary technologies and provide them for integration in the main pilot line in Agrate, Italy.
  5. The joint Franco-German Places2Be in Crolles and Dresden. This pilot line is entirely devoted to implementing the so-called FDSOI technology for leading-edge integrated circuits. This competitive technology, which allows for further miniaturisation of devices while increasing performance and reducing power consumption, will evolve towards large-scale volume manufacturing. The aim of the 23 partners is to bring this promising technology to industrial scale by solving challenges such as manufacturing yield and application development. Until December 2015 developments will demonstrate and stabilise the technology over two manufacturing sites in Crolles, France, and Dresden, Germany.

How do pilot lines work?

Industries using advanced electronics to differentiate their products (cars, mobile phones, electrical appliances, computers, medical equipment etc.) do not simply buy an already finalised chip. They work together with electronics manufacturers, during the design and manufacture process, to make sure that the end product best suits their needs. Usually this is done with electronics manufactures based throughout the world, in particular in Asia and the US.

The European Commission is supporting pilot lines closer to home to enable European manufacturers to develop innovative chips and production processes that are state of the art and feature unique properties, such as being more energy efficient or offering more functionality. Through pilot lines, novel technologies can be developed faster, made available to users for testing and validation at a much earlier stage in the product development stage so that the risks in rolling out these processes at larger scale is significantly reduced. These new chips and procedures will better suit manufacturers’ needs, giving their products a competitive edge. Pilot lines will also work closely with suppliers and the innovation chain (for example universities, Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs), technology providers, designers).

To give some examples, a manufacturing of light fittings will get a supply of advanced high performance LED devices to adapt the light intensity and colour to the time of the day and the mood of the user; a company developing an electric vehicle will collaborate with the pilot lines building the next power management devices to extend the autonomy of the vehicle; a portable phone manufacturer will experiment with integrated devices consuming 40% less power and running at higher speed to integrate further features for communication and entertainment etc.

Having these pilot lines in the EU gives Europe’s electronics and manufacturing sectors an edge globally. By being relatively close to each other’s researchers and manufacturers, they have short loops of exchange which is essential for better results.

Until recently, this could not have happened, because neither the EU on its own, nor any of the EU countries on its own could have funded it. This was made possible thanks to the joint contribution of the EU, member states and industry, through the funding and support of ENIAC, a public-private partnership aimed at enhancing further integration and miniaturisation of devices and increasing their functionalities.

How were these pilot lines selected?

These pilot lines were selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  1. they should be based in a manufacturing enterprise that has significant production in the EU;
  2. they should build on leading edge R&D;
  3. they should bring benefits in energy savings, optimised production processes and enhanced products;
  4. the benefits of the pilot lines should be very much beyond their immediate location – they serve the suppliers, customers and society;
  5. they should have the potential to create new, and safeguard existing jobs; and
  6. there should be a significant commitment by industry – public funding is in the order of 30%.

Useful links

A new Electronics Strategy for Europe

Electronics in the Digital Agenda

More information on the pilot lines


The 5 pilot lines in the Digital Agenda

Contacts :Ryan Heath (+32 2 296 17 16), Twitter: @RyanHeathEULinda Cain (+32 2 299 90 19)

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