To regain ground it has lost in the electronics and semiconductor sectors in recent years, the European Union has launched a €5 billion (US$6.8 billion) public-private partnership to boost the electronics design and manufacturing capabilities of its member states.
The recently launched Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) will bring together funding from the EU, European manufacturers, technology companies, chip designers, software developers, researchers, and universities at the early stages of product and service development, and boost the continent's ability to get new projects going and support existing ones, notes the Irish Examiner.
According to the European Commission, the group aims to:
- Maintain and help grow semiconductor and smart systems manufacturing capability in Europe;
- Help the region secure a leading position in design and systems engineering;
- Provide access for all stakeholders to a world-class infrastructure for the design and manufacture of electronic components and embedded and smart systems
- Foster the development of ecosystems involving innovative small and midsize enterprises, while strengthening and creating clusters in promising new areas
The EC notes high on the list of benefits two key things: secure supply of key technologies supporting innovation in all major sectors of the economy, and align member state strategies in attract private investment while avoiding duplication of efforts.
This initiative is a core part of the larger-scale Electronics Strategy for Europe, which was established in 2013 and looks to mobilize €100 billion (US$130 billion) in private investments and create 250,000 jobs by 2020, according to the Global Post. And, it comes on the heels of news of other efforts to keep Europe competitive, like the €2.8 billion (US$3.6 billion) robotics program and its push to reshore manufacturing and build smart factories, which EBN has reported on.
It's a good start, but what else is needed?
Having the advantage of living here, I think one of the things missing from this corner of the world is the entrepreneurial spirit that categorizes huge technology-development centers like Silicon Valley. Yes, there are innovative corners of Europe with some companies making big strides forward, but generally I see more of a risk-adverse nature dominating the business culture here. Until there is a more open attitude that fosters innovative design thinking, Europe will remain a few notches down the list ranking competitive R&D centers globally.
Obviously, I'm not the only one thinking about this. The EU has already given innovation a priority place on its agenda. Its sweeping Horizon 2020 program to boost industrial competitiveness, for example, includes a nearly €80 billion (US$104 billion) investment on innovation.
In the meantime, I'll guess we'll wait and see how these programs come together, keep Europe on the world stage, and open up new avenues for the electronics industry in a mature market.