Many parties need to buy-in to Malcolm Penn's dream of European manufacturing on 450-mm diameter wafers if it is going to happen. And Europe, facing eurozone implosion, needs radical thinking and risk-taking.
I don't think common manufacturing platforms across all parties are necessary for a jointly owned and operated 450-mm wafer fab. A 450-mm More-than-Moore fab in particular would have to support a large number of processes but there might be advantages in finding common ground and common processes. The bigger obstacle is making joint ownership work. This has usually prooved problematic in the long term. There is also a lack of the risk-tasking spirit that existed at the birth of the European experiment and which drove such things as GSM cellular mobile phone technology and the Megaproject and JESSI.
I am sure the EU/EC is aware of a need to reinvigorate European manufacturing and value creation in areas like nanotechnology and the need to do something to prevent manufacturing continuing to drain east. The European companies tend to just want R&D support for their nearer term technologies on 300-mm wafers. I don't see Carlo Bozotti of STMicroelectronics, Rick Clemmer of NXP Semiconductors or the incoming Reinhard Ploss at Infineon Technologies changing that position any time soon.
And with regard to Penn's idea of a 450-mm fab to given European companies an advantage behind the leading-edge there are yet more hurdles to be overcome.
More-than-Moore technologies for the most part do not require 450-mm diameter wafers and in some cases are positively uneconomic on such large wafers. It is not practical that an entire chip product's lifetime requirement can be produced on just a few wafers. Indeed there is discussion in the MEMS community that 300-mm wafers are still way too large for any designs and that 200-mm wafers are only just becoming the sweet spot for consumer MEMS with applications that need high volumes.
We should remember that Moore's law when originally coined was an economic argument and not a technical one. The only way I can see 450-mm wafers being used for the smaller volumes and wafer area required by many behind-the-leading-edge technologies would be if there was a business model change so that multiproject wafer runs could become more mainstream, rather than a prototyping vehicle.
That could happen (see Adapteva close to sampling 28-nm, 64-core coprocessor and InvenSense opens up process to enable fabless MEMS) but again is probably not a sufficient condition. There are arguments regarding amortization of investments which mean that the newest, most expensively produced wafers should be used for the largest die with the highest value per silicon area. Older written-down fabs running smaller wafers have always been used to run older processes and chips with lower selling prices.
The best hope I see is that the bureaucrats in Brussels can call in some favors with the likes of Intel and Globalfoundries, who want to be good European citizens, to have a leading-edge volume 450-mm wafer fab be located in Dublin or Dresden.
The full report can be downloaded from the European Commission's website at http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/nanoelectronics/documents/450mm-final-report.pdf
Related links and articles:
European report considers 450-mm More-than-Moore fab
InvenSense opens up process to enable fabless MEMS
Adapteva close to sampling 28-nm, 64-core coprocessor