Science & Technology

Experts cast doubts on EU’s bid to boost domestic chip production

By Laura Pérez-Cejuela

Brussels, Nov 7 (EFE).- The European Union wants to double its chip production to become less dependent on third parties but not everyone is convinced that embarking on a costly subsidy race to attract factories to the continent is the best path to self-reliance.

The global shortage of semiconductors due to the pandemic has cast fresh light on the EU’s reliance on other producers, especially in Asia, to secure essential components for chips used in almost all electronic devices from cars to cell phones to game consoles and medical equipment.

In the short term, the supply shortage is already slowing — and in some cases halting — industrial activity in Europe, hindering the continent’s economic recovery.

The EU aims to bag 20% of global semiconductor and next-generation chip production by 2030, recovering ground in an industry worth over 430 billion euros annually and one that has grown from 9% of international commerce in 1998 to 22% today.

To that end, the European Commission will table the European Chips Act, according to internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

The plan is to combine a research strategy with a boost in production capacity, including the construction of mega-factories and cooperation with third-party countries to diversify supplies.

With the project expected to be finalized in 2022, Breton hopes to push for investment through the Important Project of Common European Interest,  European Alliance on Processors and Semiconductor or the annual budget.

However, experts question whether focusing on manufacturing, especially with the most cutting-edge chips, is the right way forward for the EU to gain clout in a globalized industry.

Chip manufacturing is concentrated in Asia, with the duopoly split between Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung while the United States dominates in design — a control of intellectual property that it has used to sanction China.

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