The global shortage of semiconductors has disrupted supply chains, causing problems in the production of everything from cars to medical equipment and in some cases even forcing factories to close.
European Chips Act aims to strengthen the semiconductor ecosystem in the EU, increase the resilience of supply chains and reduce external dependencies. The goal is for Europe to double its global market share in semiconductors to 20 percent within a decade.
The initiative focuses, among other things, on strengthening research and technical leadership, building Europe's capacity to innovate in the design and manufacturing of advanced semiconductors.
- It is strategically important and involves a mixture of security, economics and politics. Other parts of the world invest in this area and we need to do that too, says Adela Saavedra Granholm, who works in the area of industrial development at Vinnova.
Most of the initiative will be implemented through the Chips Joint Undertakning program which will be launched in November, where part is about supporting a network of competence centers around Europe. In total, the European Commission expects that there will be 27 competence centres, with half of the funding coming from the EU and the other half from the own country.
Vinnova plans to finance the establishment of a competence center for semiconductors in Sweden, which will focus on small and medium-sized companies and startups within deeptech, i.e. technology close to research. It should not be confused with the investment in the national competence centers that Vinnova also finances.
- It should function as a hub for imparting knowledge. To a large extent, it is about training employees in the companies, among other things in the design of circuits because there is a great lack of such competence in Sweden. The center will also help the companies gain access to the facilities that the EU invests in to try out new technology in semiconductors, so-called pilot lines, says Adela Saavedra Granholm.
The idea is that the centers in the different countries should cooperate and focus on different needs, so that they are not all doing the same thing. The training in semiconductor design to be offered online will be able to be shared between the centers and reach a large number of employees in European companies. That way, there should be more effect for the money.
Sweden has over 3,600 electronics companies with a turnover of SEK 153 billion and employs nearly 50,000 Swedes, according to the research institute RISE. Semiconductor technology is important for Swedish industry, not least in the automotive industry where the need for advanced processors is increasing sharply at the same time as the need to ensure the selection of the right standard components and suppliers has received greater attention.
- Sweden is good at design in specific areas such as fast electronics, defense systems and power electronics. But we have difficulty maintaining resources in Sweden and it is difficult to attract international competence. That's why this center is important, says Lars Gustafsson, who works with the venture at Vinnova.
The establishment of the competence center is preceded by an open process, where Vinnova involves actors who want to coordinate a competence centre. The European Commission opens a targeted call for proposals at the beginning of 2024 where the actors nominated by the various countries can apply. A Swedish competence center for semiconductors within Chips Joint Undertaking is estimated to be able to start at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025.