The European Chips Act

The European Chips Act, Preamble 11 to 20, Proposal of February 2022

European Chips Act, Preamble 11 to 20

(11) In order to equip the Union with the semiconductor technology research and innovation capacities needed to maintain its research and industrial investments at a leading edge, and bridge the current gap between research and development and manufacturing, the Union and its Member States should better coordinate their efforts and co-invest.

To achieve this, the Union and Member States, should take into consideration the twin digital and green transition goals. The Initiative throughout all components and actions, to the extent possible, should mainstream and maximise the benefits of application of semiconductor technologies as powerful enablers for the sustainability transition that can lead to new products and more efficient, effective, clean and durable use of resources, including energy and materials necessary for production and the whole lifecycle use of semiconductors.

(12) In order to achieve its general objective, and address both the supply and demand side challenges of the current semiconductor ecosystem, the Initiative should include five main components.

First, to reinforce Europe's design capacity, the Initiative should support actions to build a virtual platform that is available across the Union. The platform should connect the communities of design houses, SMEs and start-ups, intellectual property and tool suppliers, with research and technology organisations to provide virtual prototype solutions based on co-development of technology.

Second, in order to strengthen the security and resilience of supply and reducing the Union's dependency on third country production, the Initiative should support development and access to pilot lines. The pilot lines should provide for the industry a facility to test, experiment and validate semiconductor technologies and system design concepts at the higher technology readiness levels beyond level 3 but under level 8 while reducing environmental impacts as much as possible. Union investments along Member States investment and with the private sector in pilot lines is necessary to address the existing structural challenge and market failure where such facilities are not available in the Union hindering innovation potential and global competitiveness of the Union.

Third, in order to enable investments in alternative technologies, such as quantum technologies, conducive to the development of the semiconductors sector, the Initiative should support actions including on design libraries for quantum chips, pilot lines for building quantum chips and testing and experimentation facilities for quantum components.

Fourth, in order to promote the use of the semiconductor technologies, to provide access to design and pilot line facilities, and to address skills gaps across the Union, the Initiative should support establishment of the competence centres on semiconductors in each Member State. Access to publicly funded infrastructure, such as pilot and testing facilities, and to the competence network, should be open to a wide range of users and must be granted on a transparent and non discriminatory basis and on market terms (or cost plus reasonable margin basis) for large undertakings, while SMEs can benefit from preferential access or reduced prices. Such access, including for international research and commercial partners, can lead to broader cross-fertilisation and gains in know-how and excellence, while contributing to cost recovery.

Fifth, The Commission should set-up a dedicated semiconductor investment facility support (as part of the investment facilitation activities described collectively as the 'Chips Fund') proposing both equity and debt solutions, including a blending facility under the InvestEU Fund established by Regulation (EU) 2021/523 of the European Parliament and Council, in close cooperation with the European Investment Bank Group and together with other implementing partners such as national promotional banks and institutions.

The 'Chips Fund' activities should support the development of a dynamic and resilient semiconductor ecosystem by providing opportunities for increased availability of funds to support the growth of start-ups and SMEs as well as investments across the value chain, including for other companies in the semiconductor value chains. In this context, the European Innovation Council will provide further dedicated support through grants and equity investments to high risk, market creating innovators.

(13) In order to overcome the limitations of the current fragmented public and private investments efforts, facilitate integration, cross-fertilisation, and return on investment on the ongoing programmes and to pursue a common strategic Union vision on semiconductors as a means to realising the ambition of the Union and of its Member States to ensure a leading role in the digital economy, the Chips for Europe Initiative should facilitate better coordination and closer synergies between the existing funding programmes at Union and national levels, better coordination and collaboration with industry and key private sector stakeholders and additional joint investments with Member States.

The implementation set up of the Initiative is built to pool resources from the Union, Member States and third countries associated with the existing Union Programmes, as well as the private sector. The success of the Initiative can therefore only be built on a collective effort by Member States, with the Union, to support both the significant capital costs and the wide availability of virtual design, testing and piloting resources and diffusion of knowledge, skills and competences. Where appropriate, in view of the specificities of the actions concerned, the objectives of the Initiative, specifically the 'Chips Fund' activities, should also be supported through a blending facility under the InvestEU Fund.

(14) Support from the Initiative should be used to address market failures or sub-optimal investment situations in a proportionate manner, and actions should not duplicate or crowd out private financing or distort competition in the internal market. Actions should have a clear added value for the Union.

(15) The Initiative should build upon the strong knowledge base and enhance synergies with actions currently supported by the Union and Member States through programmes and actions in research and innovation in semiconductors and in developments of part of the supply chain, in particular Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme established by Regulation (EU) 2021/694 of the European Parliament and of the Council with the aim by 2030, to reinforce the Union as global player in semiconductor technology and its applications, with a growing global share in manufacturing. Complementing those activities, the Initiative would closely collaborate with other relevant stakeholders, including with the Industrial Alliance on Processors and Semiconductor Technologies.

(16) With a view to accelerating implementation of the actions of the Initiative, it is necessary to provide an option of implementing some of the Initiative actions, in particular on pilot lines, through a new legal instrument, the European Chips Infrastructure Consortium (ECIC). The ECIC should have legal personality. This means that when applying for the actions to be funded by the Initiative, the ECIC itself, and not individual entities forming the ECIC, can be the applicant. The main aim of the ECIC should be to encourage effective and structural collaboration between legal entities, including Research and Technology Organizations.

For this reason, the ECIC has to involve the participation of at least three legal entities from three Member States and be operated as a public-private sector consortium for a specific action. The setting up of ECIC should not involve the actual setting up of a new Union body and should not be targeted at one specific action under the Initiative. It should address the gap in the Union's toolbox to combine funding from Member States, the Union budget and private investment for the purposes of implementing actions of the Initiative.

In particular, strong synergies can be attained through combined development of the different pilot lines in an ECIC, pooling the Union's contribution with the collective resources of the Member States and other participants. The budget of the ECIC that would be made available by Member States and private sector participants over its projected period of operation should respect the timeframes of the actions implemented under this Initiative. The Commission should not be directly a party in the Consortium.

(17) The primary implementation of the Initiative should be entrusted to the Chips Joint Undertaking as established by Council Regulation XX/XX amending Regulation (EU) 2021/2085 establishing the Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe, as regards the Chips Joint Undertaking.

(18) In order to encourage the establishment of the necessary manufacturing and related design capabilities, and thereby ensure the security of supply in the Union, public support may be appropriate. In that respect, it is necessary to set out the criteria for facilitating the implementation of specific projects that contribute to achieving the objectives of this Regulation and distinguish between two types of facilities, namely: Integrated Production Facilities and Open EU Foundries.

(19) Integrated Production Facilities and Open EU Foundries should provide semiconductor manufacturing capabilities that are "first-of-a-kind" in the Union and contribute to the security of supply and to a resilient ecosystem in the internal market. The qualifying factor for the production of a first-of-a-kind facility could be with regard to the technology node, substrate material, such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride, and other product innovation that can offer better performance, process technology or energy and environmental performance. A facility of a comparable capability on an industrial scale should not yet substantively be present or committed to be built within the Union, excluding facilities for research and development or small-scale production sites.

(20) Where an Open EU Foundry offers production capacity to undertakings not related to the operator of the facility, the Open EU Foundry should establish, implement and maintain adequate and effective functional separation in order to prevent the exchange of confidential information between internal and external production. This should apply to any information gained in the design and in the front-end or back-end manufacturing processes.

Note: This is not the final text of the European Chips Act. This is the text of the European Chips Act Proposal of February 2022.