The European Union downgraded but not resigned to the chips

A commotion on the Old Continent, moved to see its automobile assembly factories, from Spain to Germany via France, having to stop temporarily for lack of precious chips. ” One of the government’s levers is to simplify and accelerate the passage through customs, explains Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for Industry. We also try to identify companies that have carried out buffer stocks and encourage them to drop them. “Emergency measures which betray the broad European dependence on semiconductors, mainly manufactured in Asia.

At a time when the number of transistors per chip is in the billions, the sector has largely concentrated. No European player is at the top of the ranking of chip designers, except the British ARM, subject to a possible takeover from the American Nvidia. Among the founders are the Dutch NXP and the German Infineon, under American capital, GlobalFoundries in Dresden (Germany) under UAE capital and the Franco-Italian STMicroelectronics. But it only weighs a few tens of billions of dollars in a world market estimated at nearly 440 billion.

Europe, from the 1980s, made the choice of globalization, creator of wealth, explains Olivier Lluansi, PwC partner in charge of the industrial sector. But, out of mistrust of the notion of “sovereignty”, it was naive on the subjects of competition, commercial reciprocity, technological lock-in.

Now downgraded, the European Union is reluctant to relaunch itself in a race that would make it aim to manufacture chips smaller than seven nanometers, according to a technology that the Korean Samsung and the Taiwanese TSMC will soon master – who will jealously watch over them. maintaining their business opportunities – and knowing that a chip manufacturing unit costs around ten billion dollars. Perhaps the EU could bank on the next step, the quantum revolution: this would have the advantage of reshuffling the cards by putting manufacturers back on the same starting line.

The road promises to be long. ” Rather than attacking Everest from the North face of chips, the EU should regain, step by step, its electronic sovereignty, for example by starting with printed circuits and electronic cards, with more modest investments than those necessary for the chips “, considers Olivier Lluansi.

“It would thus relearn how to manage, on these matters of sovereignty, the trade issues that are not always convergent among the Member States, as well as its strategic positioning in relation to the United States or China”, he emphasizes. A strategy already borrowed for batteries, where one or two projects are underway in France and more than ten in Germany.


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