Catalonia's semiconductor sector thrives with 260 entities and 4,600 jobs

Catalan Economy

23 May 2024

Catalonia ranks as the third region in the European Union for attracting the most foreign investment projects in the semiconductor field.

Catalonia's semiconductor ecosystem is made up of 260 entities, including companies, technology centers, and research institutes, collectively generating 4,600 jobs for researchers and highly skilled workers. The 216 companies within this network have a combined business volume of 302 million euros.

These findings are among the key conclusions of the updated report Semiconductors in Catalonia prepared by Catalonia Trade & Investment and were presented at the launch event of the Catalonia Semiconductor and Chip Alliance.

Catalonia Trade & Investment - An emerging sector in the attraction of foreign technological investment

An emerging sector in the attraction of foreign technological investment

The richness of this ecosystem has positioned Catalonia as a benchmark destination for technological investment in the semiconductor field. In fact, it ranks as the third EU region to have attracted the most projects (6% of the total) since the announcement of the European Chips Act in 2022, trailing only behind Bavaria and Ireland. These projects, such as those by Cisco or Intel, amounting to a total value of 420 million euros (1% of the EU total), have generated nearly 1,200 jobs (8% of the total in the EU).

“Catalonia must be a leader and a point of reference in the south of Europe in the field of semiconductors”

Minister for Business and Labor of the Government of Catalonia, Roger Torrent

An initiative to boost the semiconductor ecosystem in Catalonia

The Catalonia Semiconductor and Chip Alliance is a public-private initiative which is made up of fifty members and aims to draw up industrial policies that will boost this ecosystem in Catalonia.

Present at the presentation of the alliance were the Minister for Business and Labor of the Government of Catalonia, Roger Torrent; the Minister for Economy and Finance, Natàlia Mas; and the Minister for Research and Universities, Joaquim Nadal. The event also saw the involvement of industry players such as Semidynamics, Qilimanjaro, Ideaded, and Inbrain.

Roger Torrent stated, "Catalonia must be a leader and a point of reference in the south of Europe in the field of semiconductors". In this regard, he pointed out that "the collaboration between the public and private sectors is the key to the success of this project. In two years, the number of companies has grown from 86 to 216, generating 4,600 jobs". The Minister took the opportunity to encourage more companies to join the alliance.

José Garrido, founder and CSO of INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, stated: "Catalonia is home to several pioneering research centers, recognized as European and global leaders in new materials and semiconductors. These centers excel in attracting significant funding from the European Research Council and European Innovation Council programs, cementing their status as top-tier institutions in Europe".

Roger Espasa, CEO of Semidynamics, said: "Catalonia boasts an excellent university system, offering comprehensive programs in the semiconductor sector, telecommunications, computer science, and electronics. Our highly educated graduates are of exceptional quality".

Espasa also highlighted: "In addition, Catalonia is home to leading research centers specializing in photonics and supercomputing. Our vibrant ecosystem of companies is beginning to leverage the benefits of the PERTE Chips initiative and the European Chips Act".

Marta Pascual, CEO of Qilimanjaro, stressed during her speech: "It is very important to protect semiconductor chip technology because it is a critical and strategic technology for the entire industry and for society as a whole. If we lose control over this technology, we will have to depend on third countries. For this reason, making these alliances is very important to move faster and democratize technology in all areas".

For Montse Guardia, CPO of Ideaded, talent is a key asset in the semiconductors sector in Catalonia: "We have very well-prepared university students, and we also invest in professional training. It's a new industry and we have great trainers. In Catalonia we have an entrepreneurial vision and a very innovative cultural temperament. We also have the ability to network with other cultures: We attract people from different areas to our universities, they have done their Masters and PhDs here, and now they find business opportunities here. People stay in Catalonia".

Key objectives of the Semiconductor and Chip Alliance of Catalonia

The Semiconductor and Chip Alliance of Catalonia arrives with the ambition to be as inclusive and representative as possible to consensually define the roadmap necessary for international positioning, growth, and improvement of competitiveness in the semiconductor field.

This initiative is part of the National Pact for Industry 2022-2025, approved in the fall of 2022, which already includes a strategic plan for the development and attraction of investments in semiconductor manufacturing, as well as the desire to position Catalonia internationally as a hub of knowledge, economic activity, and infrastructure related to the chip sector.

It is also in line with the priority of the National Pact for the Knowledge Society to support strategic projects aimed at expanding educational capacity in an industry where highly specialized talent is one of its cornerstones.

During the session, the Semiconductor Industry Boost Strategy was also presented, which is divided into five strategic axes:

  1. First axis. Boosting the ecosystem and reinforcing value chain actors: The aim is to support and strengthen the existing players in the semiconductor ecosystem in Catalonia (local and foreign companies established across the entire value chain, academia, research centers, and technological hubs) so that they can grow and remain competitive on a global scale, utilizing existing support tools or creating new ones when necessary.
  2. Second axis. International positioning and investment attraction: The Alliance works to strengthen Catalonia's international positioning. This will be done through international alliances, particularly at the European level, including the European Semiconductor Regions Alliance (ESRA), and by working towards being a key player in projects stemming from the European Chips Act and the NextGen funds – Chips for Europe or initiatives such as the Chips for Europe Joint Undertaking.
  3. Third axis. Infrastructure: At this juncture, priority is given to the establishment and provisioning of cutting-edge infrastructure accessible to companies and geared towards providing agile and tailored responses to the needs of both the local industry and research sector. The goal is to facilitate the convergence of both spheres in both directions.
  4. Fourth axis. Talent: Catalonia aims to become an international hub for semiconductors, and therefore, it must also aspire to become a talent hub in this field. In this regard, the implementation of an inter-university master's program in Semiconductor Engineering and Microelectronic Design stands out, as well as the application of the Industrial Doctorate Plan for companies in the chip sector. The goal is to also work on complementary initiatives for generating and attracting talent.
  5. Fifth axis. Technology transfer: The challenge lies in achieving effective collaboration between research and industry to leverage the knowledge base in Catalonia in the semiconductor field as a foundation for business competitiveness. Along these lines, the creation of a plan for generating spin-off companies and the recently approved Strategic Plan for Innovation and Knowledge Transfer stand out.

A strategic technology for Catalonia

Semiconductor technology is a Government priority due to its significance in contributing to Catalan and European technological sovereignty, as well as fostering industrial development. In this vein, initiatives such as the Semiconductor and Chip Alliance of Catalonia, semiconductor strategy, and the pre-production facility InnoFab have been developed, contributing to the emergence of a specialized and diversified business environment across the entire value chain. At the same time, Catalonia actively participates in European and international projects related to this sector, such as the European Semiconductor Regions Alliance.

Catalonia Trade & Investment’s report defines semiconductors as materials that enable precise control of electric currents to provide chips with the ability to process, store, and transmit data. For instance, semiconductors find applications in data centers, computers, video game consoles, cameras, or smartphones. This cutting-edge technology, with chips today containing around 10 million more components than they did 60 years ago, is crucial for enabling transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, electric and autonomous vehicles, and the Internet of Things.

In Catalonia, 44% of the manufacturing industry uses semiconductors in their processes and products. This reality incentivizes the development of an ecosystem predominantly composed of SMEs (81%), where half of the companies are exporters (51%). Over and above the business ambit, Catalonia further enriches the semiconductor ecosystem with research and technology centers, universities and educational institutions, business associations, and clusters.

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