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Finland can increase Europe’s competetive advantage


The Finnish semiconductor ecosystem has all the ingredients to become an even more significant player in the rising European semiconductor industry.

Chips and other semiconductor components are considered indispensable in all important fields of the future – they are key enablers for the green and digital transformation which means the market demand is also heavily increasing. The semiconductor industry has become strategic for the future of nations, and a domain for heated global competition.

The EU is joining forces between multiple Member States to support companies‘ investments under the EU Chips Act, which aiming to strengthen the EU's technological sovereignty. The goal is for Europe to double its global market share for semiconductors to 20 percent by 2030. A remarkable 43 billion euros are to be made available from the EU budget and private sector funds.

Finland is one of the active countries in the EU Chips act and developing it’s semiconductor industry. The business sector of electronics and photonics currently employs around 5,000 people in Finland and is worth just under two billion euros. Finland already has a well-developed semiconductor industry that attracts global leading companies to tap into the high-level knowhow in the country. How can a small country like Finland compete with the big global players?

Finland has leading expertise across all areas regarding semiconductors

There is no digital without chips, and neither are there chips without electronics and photonics. And since the world is mainly analogic, there is also a constantly growing need for chips that join the digital and analogue worlds together: AD/DA converters, sensors, imaging chips, photon sources and detectors, lasers, RF and quantum chips, and thousands of other chips that are not processors or memories. Finland has leading expertise across all these areas. Furthermore, Finland’s strengths aren’t limited to sensors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and photonic and mobile communication components but also cover the design of such devices and systems. These factors, combined with speciality wafer-producing capability and a strong ALD sector, make Finland a country that has the nondigital part of everything digital at its fingertips” describes Kari Leino, Senior Advisor at Business Finland.

A key for Finland’s success has been specialization. Particularly, expertise required in the telecommunications industry – from RF chip and antenna design continues to SOC (system-on-chip) technology and circuit design. Consequently, Finland is still one of the EU's most prominent experts in the design of system circuits for mobile phone networks. The design expertise has also attracted many leading international companies establish design sites in Finland.

Another example of leading expertise is in MEMS, where the Finnish research and development in MEMS (Micro Electro-mechanical systems) technologies has been a success story. Manufacturing nanoscale electromechanical systems with MEMS technology has revolutionized sensorics, measurement and other applications in eg automobiles, biomedical applications and electronics. This part of the Finnish microelectronics ecosystem covers the value chain from wafer fabrication to sensors and systems. Finnish Vaisala is one of the leading companies in this field.

Chips from Finland initiative building a European ecosystem of semiconductor and quantum industry

High-level of research and development is a key pillar for Finland's semiconductor industry.

Several universities in Finland conduct cutting-edge research in microelectronics and photonics. When it comes to application-specific integrated circuits, for example, Aalto University, the University of Oulu and the University of Tampere are leading the way. VTT, the technical Research Centre of Finland, is a powerhouse in microelectronics research and development with a wide range of expertise that includes Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), photonic, quantum and other specialty components. There is ambition to leverage the high-level research and knowhow. Several partners from research, industry and municipalities are preparing a national microchip program, called the "Chips from Finland" initiative. It is intended to build a European ecosystem of semiconductor and quantum industry in Finland.

Innovation towards Chips with zero lifetime emissions

Although the semiconductor industry is a key enabler for the green and digital transformation, the industry itself has a significant environmental impact. Furthermore, the strong growth of the semiconductor industry requires more environment-friendly technologies as well as more scaled manufacturing to support the growth. In Finland, Picosun, an Applied Material’s company, is responding to these challenges by leading a R&D program called 'Chip Zero', and bringing together Finland’s strong technology R&D ecosystem. The aim of the program is to make semiconductor manufacturing more sustainable. Specific goals include achieving a 50-percent reduction in energy and chemical consumption of thin-film deposition and a double-digit increase in the efficiency of power electronic component applications by 2030. These goals will help contribute to developing chips with zero lifetime emissions. Business Finland, in part, is funding the Chip Zero program. "Finland is not only a leading country in sustanable development and known for the high-level knowhow in microelectronics, but also an excellent location for co-operation and co-innovation – and this program is yet another great example of this“ sums up Markus Müller, Senior Advisor at Business Finland.

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