11 September 2023 · 2 min read
The Road to Europe’s Semiconductor Renaissance
Interview with Lucilla Sioli, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Industry, DG Connect
In this entry for our series of interviews with experts in the field of semiconductors and engineering, we were granted an exclusive interview with Lucilla Sioli, the Director of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Industry at DG Connect, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.
Being responsible for the coordination of the European digitisation of industry strategy and for policy development in the semiconductor area, Ms. Sioli possesses a uniquely comprehensive perspective of the Chips Act.
“The Chips Act is precisely aimed at reducing the EU’s semiconductor dependencies on other parts of the world.”
Precision is indeed a key aspect of the Chips Act, as its three pillars are structured in such a way to efficiently incentivise, support, and protect the semiconductor sector in Europe. As Ms. Sioli highlights, the Chips Act’s objective is to elevate the EU’s industrialisation level.
“There are already announcements for investments totaling around 80 to 90 billion euros in the European Union for the near future.”
When asked about the current developments for the European semiconductor sector, Ms. Sioli paints a detailed picture of a context whose dynamicity becomes a double-edged sword:
On the one hand, the EU Commission’s efforts are steering the semiconductor industry’s evolution into the desired path. Thanks to vertical and horizontal coordination and support efforts in critical sectors like healthcare, telecommunications, and automotive, as well as a supportive innovation and validation ecosystem, the semiconductor industry has the space and infrastructure necessary for its long-term growth and sustainability.
On the other hand, the shortage of skilled labour is a significant issue for the sector’s well-being and, given the time required to solve such a deep-rooted issue, may seriously hinder its expansion in the short-term, just as it was partially responsible for the relative decrease of the EU’s semiconductor sector in the global market.
“The swiftness of industry transformation has outpaced societal and education changes.”
Fortunately, the Commission has already taken the necessary steps to address the shortage, thanks to investments in outreach efforts, promotion of related fields of studies, and coordination with universities, businesses, and governments. The main objective is to increase the overall attractiveness of semiconductor-related studies, but Ms. Sioli also highlights the importance of addressing the gender imbalance in the field:
“There's currently an untapped potential among young girls. Making electronics an appealing field for young women can further contribute to overcoming the skills shortage.”
Speaking of studies, Ms. Sioli remarked that the EU is already a premier destination for foreign students: with exceptional educational standards, a diverse and enriching environment, and its steadfast commitment to upholding ethical values in the realm of technology and innovation, the EU stands tall among other continents as a uniquely enticing destination for students from around the world.
In closure, Ms. Sioli highlighted the important role the semiconductor industry plays in both the digital and the green transition, stressing how the development of energy-efficient chips is vital for both developments and, ultimately, at the heart of building a better Europe.
“In the digital transition, their significance is evident as they power computers, data centers, and our array of digital devices. While the role in the green transition might be less apparent, [...] semiconductors lie at the core of electronic and smart devices that increasingly populate our lives.”