The European Union and the United States against Asia: the battle of semiconductors

The European Union and the United States against Asia: the battle of semiconductors

If we collect up-to-date information, the revolution taking place in the global semiconductor market and its causes are obvious.

There is, first of all, the increasingly obvious strategic importance of ChipsWith the spread of the epidemic and its aftermath turbulence In supplies, it was emphasized again with the war in Ukraine, which highlighted the close “dependence” of armies on semiconductors. It can be said that everyone felt central Chips compared to industrial processes (and beyond) and often fragile complexity”value chains“.

Add to this the geopolitical importance of the issue. Only thirty years ago, 37% of the world’s semiconductors were manufactured in the United States, while today this percentage has decreased to 12%. 80% of global production has moved to Asia, with Taiwan playing a leading role (with all the implications of the issue in terms of political balance), while Europe remains a residual and declining part, from 24% in 2000 to 8% today. .

If this picture were to be complemented by some “balancing” elements – starting with Leadership European machinery for building semiconductors and the United States in its design – the fact remains unbalanced creation. Especially at the beginning of a new era, its terms are well recognized by the observation of Pat Gelsinger, President of Intel: “As the location of oil wells has defined geopolitics in the past five decades, the location of new semiconductor plants will be to determine in the next five.”

This is the context in which we are and this explains the activity in this case.

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In light of the specific defect, the Chip Code Under the auspices of the Commission, industrial cooperation and projects of common interest are being established on this subject; While in the United States approval is underway these days bipartisan subordinate Chips Plusa $52 billion plan to support production Chips Made in the USA.

In a parallel development, investment is made in production: both in Europe and in the United States. Thus, Intel, as part of a European investment of about 17 billion euros, is working on setting up a factory in Magdeburg, Germany and only a few days ago STMicroelectronics And the GlobalFoundries They announced one of 5.7 billion in Kroll, France. All this while in Ohio Intel itself is building two giga factoriesEach is worth $10 billion.

In short, we are witnessing a real three-way race, in which Europe and the United States are trying to rebalance.”pendulumFor a market in which Asia today enjoys a dominant position. But it will not be a short or easy process. According to the estimates of the head of Intel, if the countermeasures adopted prove to be effective, then in a few years Europe could cover 20% of global production, the United States 30% while Asia will receive a very large 50% share.

It is good that these scenarios are also clear from the Italian perspective. The centrality of semiconductors, today and in the future, and European activity at this point means we cannot afford to be out of this race. We have all the potential: the latest companies in the production of semiconductors such as STMicroelectronics; Research centers capable of contributing to the development of the sector; Resources available through tools such as The next generation of the European UnionAnd the IPCEI Fund and European Investment Bank loans, such as the 600 million loan recently granted to STMicroelectronics For research activities conducted in French and Italian factories.

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Revitalization of the “System” is now required, on several fronts.

At the European level, first of all, an approach that relies solely on exemption from the rules on state aid may appear insufficient and a direct financial commitment may be required.

On the national front, where we are called to make optimal use of each of the resources next generationand those specifically provided for by Legislative Decree 17 2022 (150 million euros in 2022 and 500 from 2023 to 2030) with a measure that should focus on research and the design Parallel to attract large investments.

Finally, there is a role to be played on the territorial front, since cohesion policy funds can give stronger “regional legs” to the current industrial and research realities: starting with the Catania settlement in STMicroelectronicsthe largest advanced innovation center in the noon from the country.

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