Europe needs to turn nanoelectronic research into gigawealth to maintain its standard of living and provide for its aging population. A positioning paper has just come out advocating megaspending over the next eight years.
In fact the forward-looking, centrally-planning bureaucrats and committee sitters don't need much persuading. They can see the fundamental necessity of advancing the knowledge-based economy and the need for Europe to turn nanoelectronics research into nanoelectronics wealth creation. The problem is finding players at the company level prepared to put shareholders' money alongside that of the taxpayers.
It is the case that European companies, the engines of job and wealth creation are increasingly hard-pressed and often want to just get through the next quarter or the next year. Many don't see the imminent return on investment for long-term nanoelectronics research.
So the question must be: would significantly increased coordinated spending on nanoelectronics produce cost-effective results, apart from renewing the various organizational franchises?
And if the answer is "no" what I would do instead?
It seems to me that well-targeted legislation is a far more cost-effective tool than the redistribution of money from the individual to the corporation. The European Union is in a position to drive through requirements on such things as renewable energy generation, energy-efficient smart-grids, LED lighting, data security, home automation and care for old people. The need to do things differently to meet legal requirements creates a market and from that companies would see the opportunity and invest to gain the return for their shareholders.
It is true that multinational companies could respond to those opportunities but local companies would have a clear cultural and logistical advantage, which they should be able to make count. If we look back it was the political and legislative will behind GSM digital cellular communications that created a favorable climate for the likes of Nokia and ARM amongst others.
For me spending support for R&D must be done sparingly and to genuinely augment and encourage that which would have taken place in any case. Of course it is not a case of either tax and spend or legislate, but achieving the right balance of the two approaches.
The biggest argument against Europe doubling-down on nanoelectronics as a scaled-up continuation of what has gone before whereas I think Europe needs a more radical, entrepreneurial approach.
Related links and articles:
Innovation for the future of Europe nanoelectronics beyond 2020
Europe plots three pilot wafer fabs
Europe asks if it is time for an 'Airbus of chips'
European report considers 450-mm More-than-Moore fab