Should Europe Support 450mm Transition?
Future Horizons’ report for the EU on 450mm wafer processing technology development concludes that European financial support for a programme could ensure ‘that the most advanced semiconductor technologies continue to be manufactured on European soil’.
The report points out that the 450mm wafer transition will probably be the final transition for the semiconductor industry.
This gives Europe a unique opportunity ‘to preserve the remaining manufacturing base in Europe and protect its innovation power in the future.’
The report suggests that the EC supports an initial five year programme to set up a 450mm pilot line to enable the transition of European equipment and material suppliers to 450mm.
In parallel, a joint European 450mm fab for European IDMs could be set up, suggest the report.
With Europe’s popualtions on the brink iof civil insurrection, it might seem bad timing to suggest support for an industry in which Europe is a bit player.
Germany backed the last wafer transition – from 200-300mm and did not benefit much from it.
One European IC company was sold to private equity; another sold its wireless deivision to America; a third lacks managerial drive and is sinking despite EU financial support.
Meanwhile this $300 billion industry has one big player, with over $50 billion in annual revenues, which could pay for the transition itself.
So the timing looks bad, though EC involvement in the R&D side of 450mm development would undoubtedly benefit European-based manufacturers of chip manufacturing equipment and the suppliers of materials.
A precisely judged initiative now could reap big dividends.