BERLIN, Feb 3 (Reuters) - European countries are planning to support the local production of technology hardware with targeted aid that will trigger overall investments of up to 50 billion euros ($60 billion), Germany said on Wednesday.
Germany, France and 17 other EU countries agreed to join forces to invest in processors and semiconductor technologies, key to internet-connected devices and data processing in a push to catch up with the United States and Asia.
Europe’s share of the 440-billion-euro global semiconductor market is around 10%, with the EU currently relying on chips made abroad. Such dependence on chips and other products has come under the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Automakers around the world are currently shutting assembly lines due to a shortage of semiconductor chips.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said during a virtual panel discussion with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire he expected the European project, also known as Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), to trigger overall investments in the chips industry of up to 50 billion euros.
“I assume that in all countries that are ready to take part in this IPCEI ... that we’ll clearly get together a double-digit billion euros amount - and not in the lower range but rather in the middle range,” Altmaier said.
“If this will be 50 billion euros at the end or if it’s going more into the direction of 20 billion euros, that’s beyond my predictions because I don’t know how these decisions will develop in other countries like Italy, Spain, Denmark or the Netherlands.”
Altmaier estimated that companies would contribute between 60-80% of the overall investments, with state subsidies from EU member states ranging between 20-40% of the final sum.
A spokesman for chip maker Infineon Technologies welcomed Altmaier’s push to expand the state aid scheme from chips to microelectronics.
The European Commission and member states should act quickly now as the plan could make a significant contribution to increasing Europe’s competitiveness and geopolitical resilience, the spokesman added. ($1 = 0.8317 euros) (Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Andrea Ricci)