EU says it’s ready to invest ‘significant’ funds in chip sector

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said the alliance would be comparable to plans by the US, China, and South Korea to support their domestic chipmakers [EPA-EFE/Virginia Mayo]

The EU is ready to commit “significant” funds to expand European semiconductor manufacturing and support its computer chip supply chain, the Commissioner for internal markets, Thierry Breton, said on Thursday (20 May).

After a meeting at the headquarters of key industry equipment supplier ASML, Breton said Europe would need to expand its capacity to build mid-level chips before it could achieve a goal of doubling its share of global semiconductor production to 20% and producing the most advanced, 2-nanometer chips by 2030.

In April, Reuters reported the EU was launching an “alliance” of European semiconductor companies including ASML as well as Infineon, STM and NXP to help meet those goals.

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Breton said the alliance would be comparable to plans by the US, China, and South Korea to support their domestic chipmakers.

The hope, he repeated, is to attract one of the big three global chipmakers – Taiwan Semiconductor, Samsung of South Korea or Intel of the US – to build a cutting-edge plant in Europe.

Funding could come from several EU programs including its €800 billion ($975 billion) coronavirus recovery fund, of which 20% is meant to be spent on the continent’s “digital transition,” Breton indicated.

“We are not in a position where we are dying for (foreign chipmakers) to come, we are in a position where we want to offer them the opportunity to come, to invest in our continent and to enhance the security of supply,” Breton said.

“Hopefully we will be able to move quickly, and when I say quickly – it’s a matter of months not years.”

ASML boss Peter Wennink said it made sense for Europe to start supporting research and developing infrastructure now for industry segments that will be important in 5 years, and where European companies already have strengths, in automotive chips and in “edge computing.”

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