Imec-Led European Labs To Get $2.7B From Chips Act Funding

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Europe’s chip revolution gains momentum with a €2.5 billion investment in cutting-edge pilot production line for sub-2nm technologies, aiming to elevate domestic production and innovation in strategic counter to global competitors.

Leading European research laboratories are poised to receive substantial support through the European Chips Act, with 2.5 billion euros ($2.72 billion) earmarked for establishing a pilot production line dedicated to developing and testing cutting-edge computer chips. Announced by Belgium’s Imec on Wednesday, this initiative forms part of the broader European Union’s strategic move, encapsulated in the 43 billion euro Chips Act of 2023. The act aims to strengthen domestic chip production capabilities across Europe as a strategic countermeasure to similar initiatives by global powers such as China and the U.S., particularly in the wake of the chip shortages experienced during the COVID pandemic.

The pilot line, to be hosted by Imec in Leuven, Belgium, will focus on pioneering sub-2 nanometre chip technologies. This facility will enable European industry, academic circles, and startups to access and engage with chip manufacturing technologies that are typically out of reach financially for individual entities, facilitating their use in development and testing.

This initiative comes as major global chipmakers like TSMC, Intel, and Samsung gear up to launch 2-nanometre chips in their commercial fabrication plants, which entail investments nearing 20 billion euros. The European R&D line is set to foster the development of even more advanced future generations of chips equipped with tools supplied by both European and international firms.

Imec’s CEO, Luc Van den Hove, highlighted the strategic benefits of this investment, stating that it would significantly enhance the pace of innovation, strengthen the European chip ecosystem, and catalyze economic growth across the continent. The “NanoIC pilot line,” as termed by imec, will support a variety of key European industries including automotive, telecommunications, and healthcare.

The funding framework for this venture includes 1.4 billion euros from several EU programs and the government of Belgium’s Flanders region, complemented by 1.1 billion euros from industry stakeholders, including prominent equipment manufacturer ASML.

Other European research labs collaborating in this endeavour include France’s CEA-Leti, Germany’s Fraunhofer, Finland’s VTT, Romania’s CSSNT, and Ireland’s Tyndall Institute. It is important to note that actual funding under the EU plan primarily derives from member states and currently trails the financial support seen in other regions, with only STMicroelectronics approved by France to receive 2.9 billion euros for a facility in Crolles thus far.

Additionally, both Intel and TSMC are pending EU approval for substantial funding from the German state to commence construction of their respective plants in Magdeburg and Dresden this year.

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