GRENOBLE, France – Carlo Bozotti, president and chief executive officer of STMicroelectronics, provided a keynote address to the Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS Europe) held here by industry body SEMI, which contained a commitment to European chip making – but only just.
Rather than sounding three-cheers, Bozotti outlined European chipmaking as one leg of a three-legged manufacturing strategy at Europe's leading indigenous chip company.
While SEMI Europe President Heinz Kundert and his fellow committee members were applauding a new awareness at the European Commission of the importance of rebuilding advanced manufacturing in Europe, Bozotti was supportive of the principle, but nonetheless re-iterated the importance of foundries and Asian manufacturing to ST.
But Bozotti did a good job of making the case for European manufacturing, when he said: "When manufacturing goes R&D soon follows, and when you lose manufacturing, so too does the ability to innovate."
But Bozotti repeated a previously stated position that ST wished to retain some manufacturing, enough to allow negotiation and influence on technology debates at partner companies.
"I am convinced it is both necessary and possible to have a successful and sustainable semiconductor industry in Europe" Bozotti said referring to "customer impatience" and local proximity as reasons where European chip making could be retained.
Nonetheless ST's plans for relatively low capital expenditure as proportion of sales revenue – low teens of percent versus 20 percent plus at leading manufacturers – do not indicate a company that is about to revitalize chipmaking in Europe.
One of the themes of the conference as the day developed was that while European semiconductor companies, and the European Commission now agree that advanced manufacturing of micro- and nanoelectronics are of strategic importance there is, as yet, little idea of what can be done to change the climate so that European manufacturing is seen to be not only possible but also desirable because it is profitable.