LONDON – Anti-IMEC sentiment across Europe has been putting the continent's role in the transition of chip production to 450-mm diameter wafers at risk, according to Mike Bryant, analyst with Future Horizons Ltd. (Sevenoaks, England).
Already Europe's role is somewhat limited with inward investors Intel and GlobalFoundries as the only companies likely to make chips on 450-mm wafers in Europe, But ASML Holding NV (Veldhoven, The Netherlands) has become almost a monopoly supplier of lithography equipment for leading-edge production nodes and stands to benefit from the transition.
Bryant said that a lack of vision and funding in Europe prior to 2011 led to the Global 450 Consortium (G450C) being based at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Albany, New York. "Europe has got to find a complementary role in 450-mm R&D now," said Bryant speaking at a one-day meeting here on Thursday (July 12).
Bryant said that his investigations showed that Intel and GlobalFoundries had been agnostic about the location of the wafer R&D and would have been happy to work at IMEC (Leuven, Belgium), a world-class research institute on microelectronics, rather than Albany. "A $200 million commitment would have killed it [G450C in Albany]," Bryant said. As it is IMEC and Europe's leading chip equipment makers are going to have to participate in Albany and may not find it easy to draw on European public funds to "create jobs in the U.S," Bryant added.
Bryant also painted a picture of the battle lines the consultancy had to cross as it researched a report on the future of 450-mm chip manufacturing that it prepared for the European Commission in 2011 and which was recently published (see European report considers 450-mm More-than-Moore fab).
On the pro- side of the 450-mm argument are chipmaking equipment manufacturers such as AMSL and ASM International and IMEC (Leuven, Belgium). On the other side are Europe's leading indigenous chip companies STMicroelectronics NV and Infineon Technologies AG and research institutes such as CEA-Leti in Grenoble and the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany, Bryant said.