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Working towards a semiconductor strategy for Sweden

How should we collaborate on a national strategy for semiconductors? The answer could be closer than we think. After the panel discussion during “Politics Week” in Almedalen, Lund University is now taking the first step towards establishing a national competence centre for semiconductors.

Jessika Sellergren – Published 13 July 2022

A first meeting with the aim of coordinating the national agenda is booked by Erik Renström, Lund University, Stefan Christiernin, Volvo Cars, Darja Isaksson, Vinnova, Pia Sandvik, RISE and Lars-Erik Wernersson, LTH. Photo: Jessika Sellergren

The shortage of semiconductors is a global challenge that requires quick solutions. During the recent  Almedalen Week, the problem was highlighted by Lund University’s panel discussion on semiconductors. The debate was about the shortage of components, who might play a role in securing the national demand for semiconductors, and how Sweden could also help to improve the security of production for the rest of the EU. As well as Lund University, Vinnova – Sweden’s Innovation Authority, RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Volvo Cars all took part.

Why, then, are semiconductors such an important component? Lars-Erik Wernersson, Professor of Nanoelectronics at the Faculty of Engineering (LTH) at Lund University explains: 

“Semiconductors are found in almost all the electronic equipment we use and rely on – like mobile phones, cars, aeroplanes, and payment cards. But of course, the list of areas where semiconductors play an important role can be made much longer than that.”

Semiconductors are materials that are adapted to conduct, or not conduct, electricity. Silicone and gallium arsenide are two examples.

“The semiconductor shortage everyone is talking about is not about a lack of materials, but is to do with manufacturing capacity being insufficient. We have too few suppliers, and the start-up phase for establishing new manufacturing of semiconductor components is long and expensive,” says Lars-Erik Wernersson.

Chips Act

Along with the member states and international partners, the EU is now prioritising securing European access to semiconductors. The initiative is called the European Chips Act, and the budget of over EUR 40 billion is a combination of both public and private finance.

“In order to play a role at a European level, we first need to find ways of shaping the national agenda in which we coordinate academia with industry, research institutes, public authorities and other stakeholders – a collaboration process which Lund University is now initiating,” says Erik Renström, Vice-Chancellor of Lund University.

Deputy Dean at the Faculty of Engineering, Heiner Linke, who is responsible for the faculty’s research, agrees. He points out that Lund has the know-how and the resources in several of the areas of strength that are in demand.

“In both the Swedish strategy and the European collaboration, Lund’s infrastructures such as MAX IV, ESS and NanoLab, along with cutting-edge knowledge in circuit design and nanoelectronics are important resources for the future development of semiconductors,” he says.

Global uncertainty and climate change have played their part

One of the panellists in the Almedalen discussion was Darja Isaksson, Chief Executive of Vinnova. She explains that one of the reasons for the disruption to the supply chain is the pandemic, but it is also a result of geopolitical tensions, cyber-attacks on trading hubs and serious weather events leading to floods and fires.

“Well-developed supply chains are necessary for our resilience, our security and sustainability. The EU is investing to strengthen Europe’s resources, and when the EU invests, it serves Sweden to decide what position we want and how we want to contribute to the national strategy and the European community,” says Darja Isaksson.

A first meeting with the aim of coordinating the national agenda

One way of making a contribution is to shape and structure the competence centre that each European country is expected to establish within the Chips Act – and the first step has now been taken.

Before the panellists were allowed to walk off the stage in Almedalen, moderator and finance journalist Thomas Frostberg challenged them to open their diaries and book in a first meeting. The meeting will take place in early September, and include Erik Renström, Vice-Chancellor of Lund University; Heiner Linke, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Darja Isaksson, Chief Executive of Vinnova; Pia Sandvik, Managing Director of RISE and Stefan Christiernin, Director of Research at Volvo Cars.
Other stakeholders from academia, business and the public sector have already been invited to the meeting.

“Somewhat unashamedly, we have proposed that Lund University coordinate the national agenda for semiconductors and assume a leading role in this process with the aim of ensuring that semiconductor components are available to all the industries that need them. Now we’re getting on with it,” says Lars-Erik Wernersson.

European Chips Act

An EU initiative intended to secure European production of, and access to, semiconductors. The budget of around EUR 40 billion includes support for research and testing centres, for the production of advanced technology, grants to small and medium-sized enterprises and the implementation of security systems that establish national competence centres – one hub in each country.

A collage with a microchip and a map of Europe.

Almedalen: Chip in – Whole-hearted efforts for semiconductors

Lund University arranged a panel discussion about how a national strategy for semiconductors could be coordinated.

More information about the discussion and a link to the whole seminar (in Swedish)