When Jessi Saved Europe’s Chip Industry

Back in 1994, a review of the pan-European R&D programme Jessi, said: ‘Jessi delivered solid technical successes: a half micron logic process was delivered to Siemens Philips SGS-Thomson Matra MHS Mietec-Alcatel GEC-Plessey Semiconductors ES2 and CNET simultaneously with the world’s best companies.’

The review continues:

‘For future processes there are on-track programmes to deliver timely 0.35 micron and 0.25 micron processes and as a tour de force: “A Jessi milestone is to develop a 0.18-micron process using optical lithography by the end of 1996” according to Jessi process boss Jean Paul Klein.

Besides process technology Jessi can point to success in supporting a world-class company in the crucial area of chip lithography (ASM) and the development of commercial chip-sets for GSM telephones for digital audio broadcast equipment and for asynchronous transfer mode (data communications) products.

These achievements and many others have fed the most important of Jessi’s targets – the revitalisation of Europe’s top semiconductor companies. “Europe’s semiconductor industry has never been in better shape” says Doug Dunn Chairman of Europe’s largest chip company Philips Semiconductors.

Dunn is expecting revenue increases of some 25 per cent and profits of over half a billion dollars this year. His chief European rivals Siemens Semiconductor and SGS-Thomson are in financially better nick then they’ve been for a decade.

The long decline in the world market share of the European chip companies has ended and will now start to grow says SGS President Pasquale Pistorio; to Siemens’ President Jurgen Knorr the future is one of profitable growth .

All of which is a far cry from the early 80s when industry pundits were saying that microelectronics was something best left to the Americans and Japanese who understood these things and who could be relied upon to keep us supplied with chips as freely and on as favourable terms as they supplied them to their domestic customers.’

The 1994 review ends:

‘Now it seems unimaginable that Europe could ever have been prepared to let the microelectronics business go hang.’

And now, in 2012, will Europe let the industry go hang?



  1. Yes … from a results point of view the first six years of JESSI were hell; it only all started to come together in it’s final year and led to MEDEA which hit the ground running. The real message here is once you let the ball drop and fall behind in technology, it takes the best part of a decade to catch up, if at all. For Europe today – which now finds itself in a similar position to pre-JESSI (although many will argue it is not!!!) that means no chance for recovery until 2020! And that assumes Europe’s chip execs have the mindset to even attempt it. Ironically, 450mm is the solution both to get back into volume manufacturing and catch up in advanced node manufacturing yet it is being totally blackballed by the same execs who mindset Europe needs. An enigma wrapped up in dilusion?

  2. Just because they didn’t achieve it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a worthy aspiration, Mike. Even from a Dublin gutter you can be looking at the stars – unless you’re face down of course.

  3. It might have been a Jessi milestone for 1996 but although there were some announcements in 1998 I don’t recall seeing any commercially available 0.18um processes until early 1999.
    It looks like Jessi was the TSMC of the 90s 🙂

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