Friday, February 3

Catalonia tries to position itself as a European pole of chip design

While waiting for the Government to announce the massive investment in the semiconductor industry through community funds, Catalonia continues to try to position itself as a pole of attraction for chip design projects at a European level. After the important investments announced over the last few weeks, this Friday the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, met at the Palau with the main players in the sector who are already installed in Catalonia and expressed his agreement with a technological industry that is in full expansion.

The objective is to show itself as an attractive and key territory in the great race of the European chip for which the Commission is committed. At this moment there are 86 companies in Catalonia dedicated to the semiconductor industry in some of its phases, although most of them are very focused on the design part. The sector as a whole employs up to 4,400 workers, but the Government is confident that it can catapult itself in the coming years. As they have explained, at this moment the Department of Business maintains contacts with up to 22 foreign business projects that, if they all materialize, would mean the arrival of 1,600 million euros of investment.

“This meeting aims to share the initiatives and challenges of the entire ecosystem of the chip sector, and all the strength it has. This semiconductor design and manufacturing sector that you represent is absolutely strategic for the Catalan and European economy”, Aragonès highlighted before the economic agents. The president highlighted that Catalonia is “one of the territories that has the most assets in southern Europe to lead the production of chips”, in a clear nod to the business sector but also to the European institutions, which have the objective of manufacturing the 20% of global semiconductors in 2030.

With regard to Catalonia, the semiconductor sector is highly focused on design, one of the three phases of this industry, together with manufacturing and assembly and testing. Although design is not the link that entails more investment or more job creation, the Government considers that it is an interesting phase because it is key to dragging production factories into the future and allows progress in other highly-skilled sectors. “There is no country that controls the entire production chain, but if companies have to choose a segment, they choose the design,” Government sources point out.

In recent months, different international companies have announced major investments in Catalonia related to semiconductors. The most important has been that of Intel, which has committed to an injection of 400 million euros with the Government of Pedro Sánchez.

It was followed by the American company Cisco, which announced the implementation of a new design center in Barcelona, ​​in this case still without defining what the final investment will be. Shortly before, the Chinese Lenovo had committed itself with another 100 million euros, which they will contribute together with the Spanish Executive. Monolithic Power Systems also announced 150 new jobs at its existing design center in Barcelona.

But local companies have also moved with agility and have announced leaps forward. This same Thursday, the Catalan company Ideaded announced that it will open the largest clean room for chips in southern Europe, that is, a space with controlled contamination conditions, which is key to the production and assembly of chips. Ideaded will invest 12 million euros in this space that will be installed in Viladecans (Barcelona), half of which will be advanced by the Institut Català de Finances (ICF).

Among the strengths that the Government highlights to promote Catalonia as an attractive territory for chips is the high industrialization of the territory, with an industrial GDP of 20%, or a mature ecosystem with regard to the electronics sector, with highly recognizable elements such as Mobile World Congress and a large network of ‘startups’. But above all, the top-level scientific-technological infrastructures stand out, with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center as the most prominent flag, but also with a training environment of six universities and 12 research centers focused on the sector.

The semiconductor industry is experiencing a historic momentum since the pandemic, in parallel to an increase in demand that has generated moments of shortages in industries such as the automobile industry or the telephone industry. According to data from the World Fab Forecast this week, chipmakers will invest more than $500 billion in 84 new factories through 2024, a significant part of them focused on Europe and the Middle East.

The European Commission is deploying its own strategy with a view to improving its technological sovereignty, through the European Chip Law but also with the mobilization of 43,000 million euros in total. In Spain, the PERTE prepared by the Government reaches 12,250 million euros, although for the moment it continues without being called.