Euro commission eyes ‘Airbus for chips’

Will a model that helped defense and aerospace companies across Europe compete with the Boeing Company work for the region’s microelectronics sector? The European Union’s top digital commissioner hopes so.

Neelie Kroes, digital agenda commissioner for the EC, said the European Union needs collaborate in the creation of an “Airbus for chips” so that it can become a major player in the semiconductor market.


“Why not a digital Airbus, or an Airbus for the chip sector,” Kroes said in an interview with Computerworld. “That scale of success is what you can get if you put borders aside and work in partnership.”

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Airbus Industrie began as a consortium of European defense and aerospace companies in 1999 with the aim of competing against the likes or Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. Since the production of its first airliner the Airbus A320, the company has grown to produce approximately half of the world’s jet airliners including the A380 which is the world’s largest airliner.

“It doesn’t mean we would structure a venture in the exact same way as Airbus, but the point is that Airbus didn’t materialize by magic, it was planned and it tool national and E.U. coordination, and we see value in achieving something similar with chips,” according to Ryan Heath, spokesman for the Digital Agenda.

Unfortunately, latest figures from the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics indicate that the manufacture of chips in Europe has been in decline for a number of years. Euro chips sales registered a yearly slide of more than 14 per cent, although sales in October were 0.2 per cent higher than in September at US$2.79 billion, according to the latest records from the European Semiconductor Industry Association.

Disparate policies among the EU nations and the phlegmatic phase of decision making may be among the crucial hurdles and Kroes is calling greater collaboration among the union’s leaders in order for is semiconductor sector to compete in an industry dominated by the United States’ Intel Corp.

“The digital economy is growing seven times faster than the rest of the economy but we need to take risks,” she said. “There is too much risk-avoiding in Brussels.”

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