French Soitec joins the European alliance for semiconductors

Posted on Jul 21, 2021, 6:35 PMUpdated on Jul 21, 2021, 7:17 PM

Soitec did not need to be prayed for. Two days after the official launch of the European alliance for semiconductors, the French number two in the sector is joining the ranks of this collective of industrialists formed by Brussels under the leadership of European Commissioner Thierry Breton. While Europe only produces 10% of semiconductors in the world, the goal is to manufacture 20% by 2030 when the market could double in size before this deadline.

To achieve this, public and private investments will amount to billions of euros. The European executive intends to guarantee the continent’s technological mastery over these key components for the technologies of today and tomorrow, while ensuring supply capacities while a global shortage of semiconductors slows the recovery economic. The Belgian laboratory Imec and the supplier ASML also support this plan.

Looking forward to STMicroelectronics

To salute Soitec’s voluntarism, Thierry Breton came to visit his factory in Bernin, in Isère. In passing, he also visited CEA-Leti, a large laboratory where 1,900 leading researchers in microelectronics work, also a partner of the alliance. These rallies contrast with the repeated reservations of the French number one in the sector, STMicroelectronics, which does not see its strategic interest in supporting the flagship project of this alliance, the construction of a state-of-the-art semiconductor foundry in partnership with foreign players such as the American Intel or the Taiwanese TSMC.

But discussions between Europe and the Franco-Italian group positioned on less advanced technologies are continuing. Without wanting to betray any announcements from STMicroelectronics, which will publish its half-year results on July 28, Thierry Breton, all smiles, invited journalists to observe that his “body language” betrayed his optimism.

FD-SOI and Finfet

On the substance of the matter, Europe recalls that it intends to support the entire sector and not one technology in particular. Thus, the FD-SOI techniques adopted by STMicroelectronics and mastered by Soitec will benefit from European aid. Just like Finfet, built for the most advanced semiconductors that European manufacturers do not yet manufacture and, for many, do not wish to address. “To make a smartphone or an autonomous car, we need both,” recalls Thierry Breton, pointing out to “Echoes” having discussed it the day before with Tim Cook, the boss of Apple.

On this point, Paul Boudre, CEO of Soitec, agrees. “There is no 5G without Soitec”, he proclaims, sure of his lead over FD-SOI and RF-SOI technologies. Specializing in substrates, the material on which semiconductors are etched, the company with 1,750 employees is surfing the explosion in demand linked to new telecom networks, the connected car and on-board computing. With 668 million euros of turnover in 2020, Soitec has set itself the objective of tripling this amount by 2026.

From April to June 2021, revenue jumped 58% compared to last year, to 180 million euros, according to a statement released Wednesday, July 21 for the results of the first quarter of its staggered fiscal year. “With each crisis, our industry accelerates because the world is emerging from crises through innovation”, attests the manager. Over the full year, he expects revenue to increase by 40%.

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