DecryptionThe current phase of digitization creates a unique opportunity for European microelectronics, believe the major manufacturers in the sector. Examples in Dresden, Germany, and Grenoble, where the factories are running at full speed.
Globalfoundries, Europe’s largest microchip factory, is expanding its gigantic buildings near beautiful Dresden, Saxony. A few kilometers north of the Elbe, the Semper opera house and the Frauenkirche, on green hills, Globalfoundries is a neighbor of Infineon, the German number one in chip, Bosch and dozens of subcontractors, sites of research, including the renowned Technical University of Dresden, which has a large institute dedicated to semiconductors and microprocessors.
Electronic chips are these cards no bigger than a fingernail on which is engraved, on structures several thousand times smaller than a human hair, the brains of electronic objects of our daily life: smartphones, laptops, vehicles. , computer servers and connected objects. This component, long seen as a basic product, has become in a few months a major geopolitical issue. Under the effect of the intensification of digital exchanges linked to the pandemic, demand exploded, to the point of creating a global shortage, which revealed a very great European dependence on Asian and American manufacturers. Even the German auto industry was forced to massively cut production, a shock across the Rhine.
« Silicon Saxony »
In Dresden, on the other hand, the Globalfoundries plant is running at full speed and the outlook looks excellent. In the region, a major center of competence in microelectronics since the GDR, renamed “Silicon Saxony” in the early 2000s, we expect a golden age of the European chip. Not only will the new phase of digitization which is beginning – that of automated industrial production, artificial intelligence and connected objects – benefit specific European know-how, but Brussels has just made microelectronics a priority axis of its policy. strengthening of “technological sovereignty”.
Thanks to an alignment between the European Commissioner Thierry Breton and the ministers of the economy Bruno Le Maire and Peter Altmaier, the idea has emerged in Europe that a more active industrial policy is now essential to support certain sectors considered strategic ( batteries, hydrogen). At the beginning of December 2020, a support plan called “Piiec”, “important project of common European interest”, was announced to support private investments in microelectronics, which will benefit several countries: Germany with Dresden of course, but also France, Italy and the Netherlands. Depending on the demands of the companies, 15 to 50 billion euros of public funds could be allocated.
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