EU aims to produce 20% of world's semiconductors by 2030

Europe is aiming to capture a fifth of the global market for the production of semiconductors by the end of the decade, according to the European Commission.

Mary Lennighan

March 10, 2021

3 Min Read
IoT chips

Europe is aiming to capture a fifth of the global market for the production of semiconductors by the end of the decade, according to the European Commission.

The goal, clearly motivated by a desire for increased tech sovereignty at a time when international trade spats are having a marked impact on the semiconductor space and others, forms part of the Commission’s so-called digital decade initiative, which lays out a series of digital targets covering the remaining years to 2030.

The Commission has presented a wordy vision of the EU’s digital future, amongst which there are some interesting snippets, including the desire to up semiconductor production.

Specifically, the Commission said that “the production of cutting-edge and sustainable semiconductors in Europe including processors should represent at least 20% of world production in value, doubling from 10% in 2020.”

The semiconductor pledge sits alongside the usual targets on connectivity within the 27-member bloc, together forming one of the cardinal points of the Commission’s Digital Compass, whose self-stated aim is to “translate the EU’s digital ambitions for 2030 into concrete terms.” The compass is part of the broader digital decade document.

In addition to boosting semiconductor production, the digital infrastructures compass point includes the aim that all EU households should have gigabit connectivity by 2030 and all populated areas should have 5G coverage. 10,000 climate neutral highly secure edge nodes should be deployed in the EU by the same date, while Europe should have its first quantum computer by 2025.

The date on that last point comes from the transcript of a speech on the digital decade by Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, following a lengthy preamble on Europe’s digital transition and the way it will serve the people.

“We need secure, performant and sustainable digital infrastructures. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have reliable network connections. In ten years from now, we want all European households covered with gigabit connectivity,” said Vestager. “As Europeans, we also need to become less dependent on others when it comes to key technologies.”

The other points on the Digital Compass cover building up the digital skills of the general population; the digital transformation of businesses; and the digitalisation of public services. Interesting objectives within those points include a drive to encourage more women into roles requiring digital skills.

“Only 1 in 6 digital specialists is a woman: to me it seems like we are depriving ourselves from half of a potential workforce,” said Vestager. “In addition to increasing people’s digital skills, we want to have 20 million digital experts by 2030. And with a better gender balance to get the most of our talent pool.”

On the business side, in addition to a focus on boosting usage of advanced technologies like cloud computing and AI, the Commission is keen to increase the number of start-ups in the EU. It is aiming for around 250 unicorns – start-ups with $1 billion in value – in the EU by the end of the decade, double the 122 in existence today.

This being a European Commission initiative, there are myriad aims and non-specific goals within the digital decade plan: there’s a broad overview of the initiative here.

And as yet, there is little in the way of detail as to how the Commission plans to reach its goals. A consultation phase will follow, with the first major deadline set for the third quarter of this year, when the Commission has pledged to propose a Digital Policy Programme, in its own words, “operationalising the Digital Compass.”

At this stage, we know that Brussels wants to increase semiconductor production and foster the development of start-ups. We’re just not yet sure how.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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