OWithout semiconductors, there isn't much going on in business anymore. More than a thousand such chips are installed in a new car alone, and the trend is rising. However, the global supply chain problems after the outbreak of the pandemic have shown how vulnerable European industry is in this area. Not only the large German car manufacturers are pushing a huge backlog of orders because they can only produce to a limited extent due to a lack of chips. In order to reduce dependence on suppliers from Asia in particular, European Union launched the European Chips Act in February. The overarching goal is to double Europe's market share of chip production worldwide to 20 percent by 2030. To this end, Brussels has promised 43 billion euros in public funding. In the spring, a spectacular success was reported with the decision by the US corporation Intel to build several plants for the production of ultra-modern microchips in Magdeburg at a cost of around 17 billion euros.
But business is now making a clear demand for the EU to realign the Chips Act. The Commission's initiative is expressly welcomed, said the responsible board member of the Siemens technology group, Cedrik Neike, to the FAZ, "but we absolutely have to expand the Chips Act". Neike points to the rapidly increasing demand in his company alone. Fewer high-end chips with the smallest structure sizes, such as those to be manufactured in Magdeburg, are in demand. This category of chips, with structure sizes of less than 16 nanometers, accounted for only 4 percent of the world market. The focus of the Chips Act is far too much on this scale. In fact, the European Commission, when proposing the Chips Act, proclaimed the aim for the EU to "play a leading role in the design and manufacture of the next generation of microchips with node sizes of two nanometers and below". Lead Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton keeps talking about it.
“We need consistent further development”
What was missing from the point of view of Siemens board member Neike, especially during the Corona crisis, are so-called industrial chips with larger structures, which are particularly suitable and important in industrial applications. "We have to make sure that we can build and develop these semiconductors here," he demands. In the coming year need Siemens around 50 percent more chips than this year. According to the current status, the group is almost forced to cover the additional demand, especially in the USA and Asia.
The demand falls on open ears among the domestic deliverers. "We're building," says Jochen Hanebeck, CEO of Infineon, referring to the recent expansion of its manufacturing facility in Villach, Austria, where 300-nanometer chips are produced. With a view to European state aid law, however, Hanebeck is demanding funding conditions that meet the European goal of 20 percent of global semiconductor production Europe settle, really do justice. If Europe also wants to catch up with smaller node sizes, the manager expects funding rates of 50 percent in view of the international location competition. "Taiwan is 20 years ahead of Europe in small node sizes," he says. In Magdeburg, the proportion of funding for Intel was also higher.