The EU sets out plan to build 20pc of the world’s semiconductors

9 Mar 2021

Image: © artjazz/

The 10-year strategy seeks to reduce Europe’s dependency on the US and Asia for supplies like computer chips.

As the world grapples with a shortage of computer chips, the European Union wants to become a force in manufacturing semiconductors.

In its bid for greater technological sovereignty, the European Commission has set out ambitions for Europe to manufacture one-fifth of the world’s semiconductors by 2030 and to build its first quantum computer.

The strategy, called Digital Compass, was unveiled today (9 March) by European Commission vice-president Margrethe Vestager and internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

‘In the post-pandemic world, this is how we will shape together a resilient and digitally sovereign Europe’

It comes amid a global chip shortage that has been a cause for alarm in many industries and sectors, from automotive to smartphones to artificial intelligence.

The auto industry in particular has felt the pinch, racking up staggering losses from delays in manufacturing. The issue has highlighted how much industries rely on chips and how much Europe relies on the US and Asia for these supplies.

In the US, president Joe Biden signed an executive order last month to call for a policy review of the country’s supply chains to prevent any future bottlenecks, with the administration seeking $37bn in funding to boost manufacturing.

Europe’s digital efforts do not stop with making computer chips, as it also wants to take on a greater role in the development of quantum computing. The plan calls for Europe to build its own quantum computer between now and 2030, which could supercharge research in areas like medicine.

“As a continent, Europe has to ensure that its citizens and businesses have access to a choice of state-of-the-art technologies that will make their life better, safer and even greener – provided they also have the skills to use them,” Breton said.

“In the post-pandemic world, this is how we will shape together a resilient and digitally sovereign Europe. This is Europe’s Digital Decade.”

The broader Digital Compass plans make the case for an acceleration of digital transformation of businesses over the next 10 years. The commission said that by 2030, three out of four companies should be using cloud computing, big data and AI.

Also in the plan is a commitment that all European households should have gigabit internet connectivity and all populated areas be covered by 5G by 2030.

It goes on to urge for greater digitalisation of public services, saying that over the next 10 years all main public services should be available online and all European citizens should have access to electronic medical records.

These plans will take some time to be put into action as the details – and how they will be financed – will require approval from EU member states and the European Parliament.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin