Pillar I of the European Chips Act establishes the Chips for Europe Initiative which has the objective of supporting technological capacity building and innovation in the Union by bridging the gap between the Union’s advanced research and innovation capabilities and their industrial exploitation.
To this end, the Chips for Europe Initiative has the following five operational objectives:
Setting up a Design Platform
Enhancing existing and developing new advanced pilot lines
Building capacities for accelerating the development of Quantum chips and associated semiconductor technologies
Establishing a network of competence centres across the Union
Setting up a Chips Fund to facilitate access to debt financing and equity, in particular for start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs and small mid-caps
With the exception of the Chips Fund (which will be implemented by the European Innovation Council and InvestEU), the Initiative will mainly be implemented through the Chips Joint Undertaking;— previously known as the Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking.
The Initiative is supported by funding from the Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programmes.
Overview of the Chips for Europe Initiative
The design platform proposed in the Chips Act is a cloud-based virtual environment to be made available across the Union, integrating a wide range of design facilities, from IP libraries to Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, as well as support services. The platform will be accessible in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way. It will stimulate wide cooperation between users and key actors of the ecosystem and reinforce Europe’s chip design capacity.
The Chips for Europe Initiative includes a number of pilot lines for the purpose of process development, test and experimentation, as well as small-scale production. These will serve as a platform for European research and development with an industrial perspective to bridge the gap from lab to fab.
A non-exhaustive list of three pilot line areas of strategic importance for Europe has already been identified:
- Sub-2nm GAA process technology development
- FD-SOI technology at 10nm and below
- Heterogeneous integration
Quantum Chips and associated semiconductor technologies
The Chips for Europe Initiative will also focus on the specific needs of the future generation of information processing components exploiting non-classical principles, notably chips exploiting quantum effects (i.e., quantum chips).
In particular, the Initiative will support the development of design libraries for quantum chips, new or existing pilot lines, cleanrooms and foundries for prototyping and producing quantum chips as well as facilities for testing and validating advanced quantum chips produced by the pilot lines.
Competence centres and skills
Competence centres in semiconductors play an essential role in the Chips for Europe Initiative. The centres will provide access to technical expertise and experimentation in the area of semiconductors, helping companies, SMEs in particular, to approach and improve design capabilities and developing skills. Competence centres will provide services to semiconductor stakeholders, including start-ups and SMEs.
- facilitating access to pilot lines and to the design platform,
- providing training and skills development, support to finding investors,
- reaching out to the relevant verticals.
The services should be provided on an open, transparent and non-discriminatory basis. Each competence centre should connect and be part of the European network of competence centres in semiconductors and should act as an access point to other nodes of the network.
In order to reinforce skills in the semiconductor industry, the Chips for Europe Initiative aims to
- increase the visibility and the attractiveness of semiconductor sector
- support the development of higher education and vocation training networks
To develop a thriving semiconductor ecosystem, easier access to finance and investment opportunities for SMEs are needed. To this end, the Chips for Europe Initiative sets up the Chips Fund in order to facilitate access to debt financing and equity, in particular for start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs and small mid-caps in the semiconductor value chain, through a blending facility under the InvestEU Fund and via the European Innovation Council.