Europe’s involvement in the semiconductor industry has always an on-off, hot-cold, up-and-down kind of thing. Sixteen years ago the November 11th 1996 edition of Electronics Weekly carried this piece:
‘During the 1970s and 80s all the owners of Europe’s microelectronics companies talked to potential buyers of their semiconductor operations.
‘At Philips, Siemens, SGS-Ates, Plessey, GEC and Thomson the semiconductor operations had at various times been considered for the chop. Corporate bosses saw their semiconductor divisions as perennial drains on their resources – capital intensive risky and unpredictable. ‘
‘As Horst Nasko chairman of the Jessi successor programme MEDEA told the Future Horizons’ European Electronics Forum in Lisbon last week: “Fifteen years ago people were saying ‘microelectronics is not a European kind of thing’ – we’ll buy that in from the Americans and the Japanese.”
“In the early 80s everyone was saying that the European semiconductor industry was dead – that it should be left to the Americans and Japanese” recalls Pasquale Pistorio president of SGS-Thomson.
‘Siemens acknowledged in the early 80s that its microelectronics technology was three years behind that of the leading practitioners in America and Japan.’
‘When at the 1985 Dataquest European Semiconductor Conference it was stated that the newly formed Megaproject would bring about a renaissance in the European semiconductor industry Jerry Sanders III president of AMD memorably commented: “Nuts”.’
‘Since then – transformation. Today thanks in part to the Megaproject and its successor project Jessi (plus foreigners would say tariff protection) Europe has three major profitable world-class semiconductor companies all doing over $3bn in annual sales with the largest – Philips – doing $4bn.’
‘The word coming out of Munich is that after twenty-five years of micro-scepticism the Siemens main board is now committed to remaining a major microelectronics player for the long-term. It is now the 16th largest semiconductor operation in the world.’