Time for action on Europe’s electronics initiative, Commission VP Kroes declares

June 06, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Speaking at imec’s Technology Forum in Brussels this week, Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, gave an update on the Commissions’s initiative to foster innovation in Europe, and to increase the level of electronics economic activity in the EU.

When initially launched, the programme was widely reported as relating strongly to semiconductor manufacturing, the “20/20” metric of achieving 20% of worldwide production by 2020. In this speech, Kroes related the objective to the high-tech manufacturing sector in general rather than specifically to semiconductors.

The advent of universal connectivity, Kroes said, “Promises to inject innovation, energise the economy and generate jobs – but only if we stay ahead of the global game – and that is the purpose of our European Electronics Strategy, launched a year ago to stimulate this strategic sector, boost our leadership and economy.”

“We have made a lot of progress; we have an agreement on a joint undertaking [involving] electronics – components and systems (ECSEL), which was agreed in one year... lining up all the sources of funding.” This, Kroes comments, is an achievement in terms of the timescales on which such matters normally proceed; the first goals will be launched within one month (Kroes was speaking on 4th June).

“We [that is, the Commission] are contributing nearly €1.2billion over seve years, which I sincerely hope the EU member states will at least match. And I count on industry, and their R&D partners, to double that again. This would amount to a combined investment of €5-€6billion which would make it the EU's single biggest public-private partnership, and that seems appropriate given the sector’s size, and its strategic importance. All sources [of finance] are being lined up to deliver in the most effective way.”

Significant projects should not face delays, Kroes says, and initial concerns have been taken into account... there are guidelines in place for projects of common European interest, setting support levels and timings for individual government assistance, without affecting the principles of the single market. Kroes has convened a grouping of leading CEOs to advise on the target of doubling semiconductor production in Europe by 2020 and of electronics components and systems in 10