EU nations expect the pending EU CHIPS Act will spur partnerships to stimulate R&D and production of advanced semiconductors for next-gen electronics. An imec executive discusses details.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

March 8, 2023

4 Min Read
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Jo De Boeck, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, imec.

Since the passing of the CHIPS Act in the U.S. last year, electronics companies have been jockeying to expand onshore production of semiconductors to improve their supply-chain logistics and mitigate global geopolitical uncertainties. Companies such as Intel, Micron, Texas Instruments, and others have announced investments in new or expanded North American fabs.

Europe is an important part of the global electronics supply chain, and European nations have been banding together to create similar legislation, called the EU Chips Act, that would bolster production and R&D in the member EU nations. In this interview with Design News, Jo De Boeck, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, imec & KU Leuven, discusses the importance and implementation of the EU Chips Act.

DN: Can you give me some background on the EU Chips Act? Who is providing the funding for it, and have any companies taken advantage of it yet?

Jo: It is still in legislation (plenty of documents on the EC website on the Pillars1, 2 and 3). Expecting the agreement in June and roll out by September 2023.

DN: Will the EU Chips Act help provide greater access to funding for increased semiconductor and electronics production in EU nations?

Jo: In Pillar 2 the objective is to mobilize quite some budgets for first of a kind in EU deployment of production facilities. The financial support would largely come from the national Member States' funds giving financial incentives for manufacturing semis.

Related:Semi Industry Finally Gets Good News: Senate Passes CHIPS Act

DN: Likewise, is the EU Chips Act expected to spur development of advanced technology, such as the increased use of advanced semiconductor process nodes, leading-edge tech such as Gallium Nitride and Silicon Carbide, advanced 56 and 6G, and autonomous tech for land and airborne use?

Jo: Yes. All of the above. Pillar 1 will invest in Pilot Lines that will connect the 'lab' to the 'fab'. It will support pilot lines in different technologies (leading edge, FDSOI, heterogeneous integration and other tech like III-V, quantum etc). These will be supported by Design Platforms and design enablement to ensure that the design community can access the newest technology platforms to start create new functionalities and applications in the domains that were mentioned in the questions amongst others.

DN:Can you give us an idea of the scope and nature of the full-stack innovation partnerships that you are talking about in the plenary session? Have some of these partnerships already been formulated and when can we see the market developments arising from these partnerships?

Related:Chip Innovations Meet Leading-Edge Electronics Apps at ISSCC

Jo: For imec, this is our bread and butter: bringing the ecosystem together around the R&D pilot line and it's advanced research programs from the applications builders and OEM's to the next node development and even the impact onto new materials and process modules. One could think of partnerships that focus on the HPC and the advanced new compute paradigms. There it's quintessential to understand the AI/ML applications and the workload to partition the system into the functional blocks in the SOC's and influence the memory, interconnect, logic and accelerator technologies to deliver the best of breeds to deliver on the promise. That has become a full stack issue. Same for automotive technologies, where the OEM's are thinking more of mobility as a service needs rather than the mechanics of the car. And with that service comes the request for sensor fusion and an overall optimized compute architecture in the car. This will again be only optimal when the system and technology is co-optimised... And the same in green tech, health care, ...

DN:What are some of the other benefits of the EU Chips Act, for functions such as training and education?

Jo: It will bring awareness that skills and reskilling are badly needed. It will boost the educational programs, the connection of academic training to industry grade infrastructure, amongst other things. It will provide funding for this. Very comparable to the skills programs that are rolled out broadly by e.g. Semi etc.

De Boeck spoke at one of the plenary sessions at the International Solid State Circuits Conference  (ISSCC) in San Francisco in February, where he discussed how the EU Chips Act will drive the partnerships needed to bolster semiconductor R&D and production. The video of his talk follows below:

 

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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