Times have been tough for Europe, that much is certain, and the semiconductor and electronics industry has, for many years now – even prior to the various economic crises in the EU – been stalling for multiple reasons. So, what do we make of the situation in Europe? Is there a survival of the fittest harshness necessary, or are there reasons to look again at Europe to play an important role in electronics manufacturing?
Competitive landscape disfavors Europe
Costs within Europe are high: labor, real estate, taxes, manufacturing, etc. The global market demands best-pricing and best-quality which has resulted in pull-backs in the amount of European based manufacturing. For example, as Solid State Technology recently featured in their article on the newest European research cluster:
"Global competition is tough and investments into European microelectronics are declining", says Jean Chabbal, Chief Representative and CEO at the French Cluster Minalogic (Grenoble/France). In 2007 only 10% of all worldwide investments into microelectronics, around 28 billion Euro, went to Europe, while about 48% went to Asia. Since 2000 Europe's market share in the semiconductor industry has dropped from 21 to 16 percent, yet the European microelectronics sector still employs 135,000 people directly along with another 105,000 in its supplier industries.
These are real industry challenges. Yet, having a truly global semiconductor and electronics industry IS important for the overall health and growth for the industry writ large.
Semicon Europa and opportunities
Semicon Europa was held this week, Oct. 9-11 in Dresden, Germany, and among the important topics was the future of Europe in the semiconductor industry. As EETimes cited Heinz Kundert, president of SEMI Europe:
Europe is at a crossroads. The European Commission has recently re-emphasized the importance of micro- and nanoelectronics as key enabling technologies of strategic interest to wealth creation in Europe. However, over the last decade Europe's chip companies have increasingly pulling back from the extreme cost of leading-edge of digital chip manufacture and started implementing so-called fab-lite strategies.
Solutions are currently seen in consortia engagements that enable multiple research and manufacturing ventures to succeed by consolidating efforts and sharing the cost-burdens. With the high-growth forecasts for markets such as wearable medical electronics for health and fitness monitoring, there are important and valid reasons to look at Europe as not only able but also well-positioned to contribute to a global demand situation.
There are real reasons that European semi has faced the challenges it has and continues to be on an unfortunate decline. However, given the forecasts for 2013 and beyond, particularly in the growth of one of Europe's strongest verticals, medical electronics, there is important and valid reason to support this opportunity for renewed growth.