Electronics for Europe

Neelie Kroes – Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

European Nanoelectronics Forum 2012

Munich, 22-11-2012 — /europawire.eu/ — Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in Munich. With over 200,000 employees in the IT sector, this is the largest IT agglomerate in Europe. From electronics specialists like Infineon and Siemens; to users of those systems like BMW and EADS; to top-class academic and research institutions. No wonder they call it “Isar-Valley” – even if the weather can’t compare with California.

The European semiconductor industry is not just a large sector – though it is worth more than 30 billion euros. Nor is it just a highly innovative sector – though it is that too. Most importantly, it’s a sector that supports innovation and boosts productivity almost everywhere else you look, from transport to healthcare. Estimates are that innovation in the semiconductor industry grew close to 9% per year over the past fifty years. This is twenty-five times the growth rate for the economy as a whole; and accounts for close to 30% of total innovation.

I was recently reminded of this when visiting ASML in The Netherlands. A global leader with an amazing economic footprint; a business anchored in a European ecosystem; – involving and engaging countless other innovative companies – including smaller ones.

And I know that this company is just one example of many. It is proof that, if we get it right, Europe has the ingredients to out-smart the world.

Our societies face many challenges: from caring for an ageing population, to managing our energy resources. But for all those challenges, and many others besides, information technologies could hold the solution.

For such an important sector – valuable, innovative, enabling – we must keep and enhance actual manufacturing in Europe. I’m convinced. Because the industries of the future will need specialised chips that are powerful, easy to programme, reliable; and energy-efficient. Let’s make them right here in Europe.

In Europe we have many strengths. But we also have fragmented national policies championing national interests; different business models that sometimes impede cooperation; and education systems that aren’t producing enough skilled engineers.

So back in May I set out the challenge: how do we make sure we have a whole electronics ecosystem right here in Europe — perhaps, one day soon, topped-up by an “Airbus of Chips”? Building on a few successful global players, on an immense number of highly innovative smaller companies, and on our leading research and development institutes. Building on our successful models for cooperation, combining all sources of support and focussing it at the bottlenecks – and looking at policy areas like trade and state aid, too. Could we be more daring, work differently, build strategic alliances? Could we build an electronics powerhouse here in Europe?

I know we can. But it needs your help. The Commission can get the ball rolling; we are talking to industry, Member States, all stakeholders – but we need others to commit, too.

So here is what we will do to drive this forward.

As a first step I will propose a strategic policy vision for our continent, a strategy for technology leadership in micro- and nano-electronics: a strategy to benefit all EU Member States and all industrial sectors, our economy and our society at large. I plan to present it early next year.

Europe can’t afford to continue with parallel funding of fragmented research, innovation and development activities in electronics. Quite simply, the challenge we face is too great for that. Member States looking after national champions is simply not good enough if these aren’t also European champions. And the EU’s share of public R&I in Europe is under 10%. So we need to align as much as possible all available public investment — behind a common industrial strategy for Europe.

It is only like this – acting together – that we can offer the budgets to match our ambition. That we can attract overall investments of critical size. And look at the whole electronics value chain, from design to manufacturing – billions of euros.

At EU level, the most important instrument to support the strategy will be a new Joint Technology Initiative, a JTI, for electronics.

As it stands, too often, support programmes have operated in isolation. The new JTI will make it easier to use synergies between them. It will bring together activities in nano-electronics, embedded systems, and micro-systems, spanning what today is done in ENIAC, ARTEMIS and EPOSS. Those three areas will still be visible: but there is a new opportunity for innovations at their intersection.

I will propose to continue with a tri-partite JTI, bringing together industry, Member States and the EU. With such a JTI we can pool the resources needed to pursue our common goals.

Today, ENIAC and ARTEMIS are the only JTIs that include Member States. Running this setup is not always easy. For accounting reasons. Because more coordination takes time. And mostly because it seems that Member States have to be convinced over and over again every single year.

However, bringing in Member States is the only way to support projects covering substantial parts of the value chain, and both hardware and software aspects. To reach critical mass and compete globally, the JTI must be able to support very large projects.

But merging the two current JTIs is not the only novelty. I will also propose to make funding schemes under the JTI more flexible, combining bi- and tri-partite approaches. No longer will administrative barriers stop important work from going ahead.

And of course, in line with Horizon 2020, the next EU framework programme for research and innovation, the legislative proposal for the JTI will also be made simpler. I will put the proposal on the table before summer 2013.

Horizon 2020 is about change, it’s about focusing on innovation and competitiveness, and it’s about priorities. Overall we’ve proposed 80 billion euros of funding for 2014-2020, including 1.8 billion euros for the key ICT enabling technologies of electronics and photonics.

Of course, these numbers are not final: they are proposals and still have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council. So I very much hope that Member States, when discussing the future EU budget in Brussels this week, will remember that investing in research means investing in productivity, essential for our economic future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope you agree that this is the right way forward. It’s an ambitious industrial strategy and an improved delivery instrument as part of Horizon 2020. I am encouraged by the efforts I see by the industry to contribute and develop the strategy. To those who still need to be persuaded, whether in industry or in Member State governments, I say: let’s continue to discuss, urgently. My door is always open – and if you don’t call me I will call you. Because we need to make a difference – together.

Thank you.


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