Yesterday, the government of Catalonia presented the Strategy for the Promotion of the Semiconductor Industry in Catalonia, aiming to consolidate Catalonia as one of the reference hubs of the semiconductor industry in Europe. The event was chaired by the Minister of Business and Labour, Roger Torrent, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Natàlia Mas, and the Minister of Research and Universities, Joaquim Nadal.
This initiative is promoted by the Semiconductor and Chip Alliance of Catalonia, which is made up of different departments of the Catalan government, companies, and research and innovation agents. The document is an action plan that will allow the creation of industrial policies with added value and support initiatives that, within the framework of the Alliance, will have a decisive impact on improving the competitiveness of the semiconductor industry in Catalonia.
The initiative is part of the National Pact for Industry 2022-2025, approved at the end of 2022, which already includes the elaboration of a strategic plan for the development and attraction of investments in semiconductor manufacturing and the will to position Catalonia internationally as a hub of knowledge, economic activity and infrastructures related to the semiconductor sector. It is also in line with the priority of the National Pact for the Knowledge Society to support strategic projects aimed at expanding training capacity in an industry where highly specialized talent is one of its cornerstones.
The strategy is divided into five strategic pillars, all of which are entirely in line with the cornerstones of industrial promotion both at the European level and in other leading countries in the industry, such as the USA, with a total of 23 specific actions:
First pillar. Strengthening the ecosystem and the actors of the value chain: The objective is to support and enhance the existing actors of the semiconductor ecosystem in Catalonia (local and foreign companies established along the entire value chain, academia, research centers, and technology centers) so that they can grow and be competitive at a global level, using existing support tools or creating new ones as needed.
One of the measures that has been proactively implemented for months now is to support access to financing, especially EUNextGen - PERTE Chips funds, as well as own financing (ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment High Impact Line, Avançsa, ICF) and alternative financing (private funds).
Second pillar. International positioning and investment attraction: The Alliance works to strengthen Catalonia's global positioning. This will be done through international alliances at the European level, especially the European Semiconductor Regions Alliance (ESRA), and seeking to be a key player in projects derived from the European Chips Act and the NextGen - PERTE Chips funds or initiatives such as the European Chips Joint Undertaking.
It is also working within the ESRA to access European funds such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for interregional innovation projects in common areas of smart specialization towards commercialization and scalability, as well as Horizon Europe funding for the creation of efficient, open and inclusive European innovation ecosystems.
Within the framework of this second pillar, Catalonia's government, through the General Directorate of Industry and ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, is working with a growing portfolio of potential investment projects, both local and foreign, in Catalonia, ranging from design centers to production centers (front and back end).
Third pillar. Infrastructure: In this point, priority is given to creating and implementing state-of-the-art infrastructures at the disposal of companies and oriented to provide an agile and ad hoc response to the needs of local industry and the research area to facilitate the confluence of both worlds and both directions. The Innofab project to build a prototyping plant for chips based on new materials stands out.
Fourth pillar. Talent: Catalonia aims to be an international hub for semiconductors; therefore, it must also strive to become a pole of talent in this field. In this sense, the implementation of an inter-university Master in Semiconductor Engineering and Microelectronic Design and the application of the Industrial Doctorate Plan for companies in the chip sector are noteworthy. It is also planned to work on complementary initiatives to generate and attract talent.
Fifth pillar. Technology transfer: The challenge is to achieve effective collaboration between research and business to add value to Catalonia's knowledge in the semiconductor field and as a basis for the competitiveness of companies. In this respect, creating a plan for generating spin-offs and the recently approved Strategic Plan for Innovation and Knowledge Transfer stand out.
The Semiconductor Ecosystem in Catalonia
According to ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment's "Semiconductors in Catalonia" study, 86 companies in the semiconductor sector currently employ 700 people. These employees are in addition to the 3,700 researchers involved in semiconductor research projects, which means that the ecosystem in Catalonia is already made up of 4,400 professionals. According to the ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment report, 81% of the companies in the sector in Catalonia are SMEs (and 8% are startups), while 37% have an annual turnover of more than 10 million euros.
The Semiconductor Alliance is essential for promoting communication and coordination between the different agents in the semiconductor industry. It also aims to initiate new projects for the development of the industry, which is significant for its impact on the digital and social transformation of various sectors in the country.
All companies and agents of the semiconductors industry in Catalonia are encouraged to participate and get involved, both from the identification of challenges and needs, as well as from the sharing of ideas and opportunities; in short, the industry is encouraged to continue generating an ecosystem in a collaborative and constructive way.