We Must Keep Manufacturing In Europe, says Neelie Kroes

“We must keep manufacturing in Europe,” Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the EC, told the European Nanoelectronics Forum in Munich this morning.

I asked Kroes if it’s realistic for the shrunken European semiconductor industry to invest in fabs. Kroes told me: “The mood is there.  The management of the big companies have mentioned to me that if they can get manufacturing back to Europe they will do it. It needs an investment climate in which it can be done.”

“The European semiconductor industry is not just a large industrial segment – a 30bn euro industry – but it is highly innovative,” said Kroes, “it supports innovation almost everywhere you look.”

‘Innovation in the semiconductor industry grew close to 9% a year for the last 50 years,” added Kroes, and accounts for close to 30% of total innovation.”

Kroes pointed out that ASML is an example of how Europe can win “if we get it right.”

“We’ll need specialized chips, powerful, easy to programme and power efficient,” said Kroes, “let’s make them here in Europe.”

“In May we set out the challenge to make sure we have the whole electronics ecosystem here in Europe,” said Kroes referring to her concept of an ‘Airbus of chips’.

I asked Kroes if the Airbus concept is one company or a co-operative ecosystem.  “For me  it is a model where we’re uniting the efforts,” Kroes told me, “we need to combine.” This will need new ways for industry to work together.”

“Could we work differently” asked Kroes, “Could we build strategic alliances? Could we build an electronic powerhouse here in Europe? I’m sure we can. I need others to commit.”

I asked Kroes if  ARM had a part to play in the European strategy called Horizon 2020, Kroes replied: “We all have to put our building blocks together. When we do that we get much more out of it than when it’s organized on a national basis. I am quite interested in keeping the UK on board.”

Research is too fragmented in Europe, said Kroes, the way ahead is a Joint Technology Initiative capable of supporting very large projects. “Investing in research means investing in productivity,” said Kroes.

“We need to align our investment behind a common industrial strategy,” said Kroes, adding that a budget of 80bn euros has been proposed for 2014-20 to support the strategy.

“I’m fighting like hell within the Council to get the revenues for research and innovation,” Kroes told me, “if we can’t do it, then it’s all over.”



  1. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    Well, Galileo was the attempt of (re)building a European navigation industry and the project is running nowhere very expensively while China, India and perhaps also India are now putting their own navigationalø satellites into orbit.
    The problem is in my opinion the same that I experienced in that other pan-European project that zero performance carried no risks and that politicians from each country championed their own companies no matter what as long as they got loads of money.

  2. I asked Neelie Kroes that very question, Ozzy, and, naturally, she was far too much of a diplomat to answer it. But I am sure she knows. Mind you, Reinhard Ploss seems a good, serious guy with his heart in the right place. But you’re absolutely right, we’re back in 1983 all over again with the semi industry in a mess. It was saved then by outstanding leadership and EC support and it can be saved again. I’d like to see Sanjay Jha or Scott McGregor come back to Europe to take over ST. NXP, while it’s owned by private equity, is not going to be much help because its priorities lie elsewhere.

  3. Mrs Kroes is one of the few in Europe who has shown leadership. She deserves our respect and support. But is there matching leadership in what is left of the semiconductor industry in Europe? If Europe can get their act together then it can build great things. Airbus comes to mind. But if they see this as another opportunity to milk the subsidy cow and then move technology and loading to Asia then this will be a waste of energy. Who are the business leaders who can and will step up? Any names come to mind?

  4. Very true, Fred, Eastern Europe would be more productive but the old guard still have a grip on the politics and resources. My impression is that Neelie Kroes is pragmatc, realistic and diplomatic and that she’ll get this done one way or another. It’s a fair bet she agrees with your point.

  5. My problem with this is the definition of “Europe” given that the union appears to be disintegrating at a rapid pace.
    Should we focus on the German vision of Europe ( proven technology expertise but expensive labour costs ), the French version of Europe , hmm.., David Cameron’s version of Europe whatever that is, should we help out the Greek and Spain economies who need economic rebuild urgently but are not so well known for technology.
    If we are going to invest ( or waste ) taxpayers money in a new European scheme, well, I would pump the investment into one of our newer members – Poland. Fiscally responsible, well proven engineering capability and much more likely to deliver credible value for money solutions than the old guard. It “should be” about maximizing the result for the investors ( tax payers ) as opposed political blah blah blah..

  6. Well they’ve told Neelie Kroes they’ll build fab in Europe if the investment climate is right, mgp-1, Kroes wants it, and she seems to me to be someone who gets what she wants. I think Europe has found its Electronics Champion – the first since Pistorio left the scene.

  7. I look forward to ST’s; NXP’s and Infineon’s announcements with bated breath … their silence is earth-shattering!!!

  8. Well Yes, SEPAM, inidividual projects have had mixed results but Kroes is on about something bigger – the resurrection of the whole European electronics industry in the same way Europe resurrected the car industry in the 80s when the consensus was to leave it to the Japanese. Now Europe has the best car industry in the world. I brought this up with Kroes when we talked yesterday and she said that’s exactly what she believes she can do. Having someone as influential as Kroes supporting the industry as a whole is the best news we ‘ve had for a long time.

  9. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    Having been involved in pan-European R&D projects my impression is that these do not work. Members from certain countries acted out their stereotypes in a way that was simply breathtaking. They received a lot of money and there was little to show in terms of results.
    You will find the Galileo project is a high profile example of such projects. A high class disaster heading for the abyss on a first class ticket, grandiose goals, hysterically wrong cost estimates, time scales that defies belief (and later are confirmed to be way off), and most importantly a political backing that is second to none.
    Having seen these things up close I believe a “Joint Technology Initiative” is something they smoked.

  10. What we need is some semiconductor management that knows what they’re doing, so, to be honest, I don’t have any hopes for Neelies plan. It’d be great though to have a Silicon Valley type ecosystem in a place where everybody would like to work (Spain, and this country could really use the income a Valley would generate). I’ll just keep on dreaming here in the cold north 🙁
    Switzerland is doing very well by with way with its own version of Silicon Valley in Neuchatel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *