Speech by President von der Leyen at the imec Future Summits 2022, “Fast-Forward into the Tech Future”

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Thank you, Dr Van den hove, dear Luc,

Prime Minister De Croo, dear Alexander,

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

With the Futures Summit, IMEC has brought together a truly impressive crowd from different industries and walks of life.

You will listen not just to experts in semiconductors or AI, but also in healthcare, climate and even food. Because today, our entire economy relies on chips. Semiconductors are the bedrock of human progress in the 21st century.

There is one example that has marked my life, and in fact, everyone’s life in the last two years. It has to do with COVID vaccines. If they were developed so quickly, it is also because of incredible innovation in the science of semiconductors. New generations of chips have changed the way we analyse DNA and process the information. Genome sequencing is 10 million times cheaper and thousands of times more accurate than it was just a few years ago.

As a result, the genome of COVID-19 was sequenced in a matter of days, at a cost of a few hundred dollars. And for this, we must also thank the chips researchers and engineers who brought all of us into the future.

Chips have unlocked a new scientific revolution. And they are entering our daily lives at a stunning pace. Our economy and our livelihoods need more chips – more advanced and more energy efficient.

But as our need for chips increases, the world is facing a shortage of semiconductors, which has already slowed down the global recovery. After COVID came Russia’s brutal invasion of our neighbour
and friend, Ukraine. And Ukraine produces about half the world’s supply of neon, which is key for making chips. It is against this background that we have presented Europe’s first-ever Chips Act.

The headline goal of the European Chips Act is simple: By 2030, 20% of the world’s microchips production should be in Europe. That’s twice as much as today, in a market that is set to double in the next decade. So it means quadrupling today’s European production. The European Chips Act will back this ambition with considerable investment. It will enable more than 12 billion euros in additional public and private investment by 2030, on top of more than 30 billion euros of public investments that are already foreseen.

The future of our economy depends on chips, and I want Europe to reclaim a global leadership role in the semiconductors industry.

Today, I would like to un-pack for you some of the key measures in the European Chips Act.

First, we will build on Europe’s strength in those fields where we are global leaders already.

Second, we will fill some crucial gaps we still have, to become a strong player all along the chips value chain.

And third, we will expand our global network of partners to strengthen Europe’s supply chains.

There is no better place than IMEC to talk about Europe’s existing strengths. For years, IMEC has been the world’s leading research hub for the miniaturisation of chips. Researchers at IMEC work on chip-making processes that are two or three generations ahead of the current leading-edge manufacturing. And today you are focusing on a new generation of chips, more energy-efficient and climate-friendly.

But it’s not only IMEC. Europe is the world’s centre for semiconductor research. The European Chips Act will invest in Europe’s leadership on research and innovation, focusing for instance on transistors below 3 nanometres and on disruptive technologies for artificial intelligence. We will invest in Europe’s pioneering spirit and in our talent.

Second, we will strive to fill our current gaps, for instance, on chips design and bringing innovation from the lab to the fab, or with advanced chip production and demand-side applications. During the pandemic, entire production lines here in Europe came to a standstill because some factories in East Asia were in lockdown. For leading-edge chips, we rely completely on a very small number of producers in a handful of countries. This situation is neither sustainable nor resilient.

With the Chips Act we are adapting our state aid approach to these circumstances: we will allow public funding for “first of a kind” production facilities which do not exist in Europe yet, and make Europe more attractive for private investments. We want foreign chips giants to know that Europe is the right place to invest. And we are already beginning to see results of this clear policy signal, even before the Chips Act is adopted by our legislators.

Europe will remain open to the world. And with the European Chips Act we will invest in new global partnerships to strengthen our supply chains. Yes, we need to tackle the bottlenecks that slow down our growth. But the solution is diversification, not an impossible isolation. We need more inter-connections, not less.

So we will work on semiconductor partnerships with like-minded partners, from the US to India and Japan.

Just yesterday, our Trade and Technology Council with the United States agreed on how to enhance our partnership on semiconductors: measures to increase transparency and information-sharing, an early warning mechanism on shortages, key principles to avoid subsidy races, and the sharing of information on necessary and proportionate subsidies.

Together we can create more balanced interdependencies and build supply chains that we can truly trust.

The European Chips Act shares the same spirit and vision of the Future Summits. It is about putting Europe at the heart of a global chips ecosystem. It is about investing in our own strength while setting sail into the world.

It is about groundbreaking innovation at the service of all society.

Thank you for your invitation and let me wish to all of you
a great conference!

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