The importance of EU Academia in developing the chips of the future

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  • Speaker: Julia Hess
  • Authors: Julia Hess, Jan-Peter Kleinhans, Laurenz Hemmen, Lisa Koeritz
  • email:
  • Organization: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung


Executive Summary

Semiconductor manufacturing has received considerable attention in recent years. New fab announcements from leading semiconductor suppliers, such as Intel, Samsung and TSMC, receive a lot of media coverage, and the groundbreaking events of greenfield investments are regularly attended by heads of state. However, what is often underestimated is the constant pressure to innovate to remain competitive. The semiconductor industry has one of the highest research and development (R&D) margins—companies spend upward of 16% of their revenue on R&D. The chip industry needs innovation across the entire value chain, from wafer fabrication to chemicals, chip design and tools, to produce today’s cutting-edge processors that are at the heart of advances in machine learning, such as ChatGPT. Understanding the distribution of research power across industry, academia and technology organizations (RTOs) can support policy makers in developing strategies to strengthen a region’s semiconductor ecosystem in the long term.

Two years ago, we began analyzing this underexposed topic with our first publication on the origin of research power in the semiconductor industry. Based on our takeaways from that paper, we now aim to further explore three questions:

  1. How did the distribution of research power between academia and industry change from 1995 to 2022?
  2. How much research is conducted in collaboration between institutions and countries?
  3. How important are EU’s RTOs?

We analyzed 28 years of invited papers to the three leading semiconductor conferences as a proxy for “research power”. Of course, research power or innovative capacity is much more than the research contributed to academic conferences. At the very least, patents and investments must also be considered. Our analysis of 17,518 papers constitutes a significant piece of the puzzle and offers important insights into the research dynamics in the chip industry.

There are three key takeaways.

First, academia took over. Interestingly, industry seems less eager today than 20 years ago to showcase their research at international conferences. The share of papers with industry contributions has declined substantially since the early 2000s.

Second, international collaboration seems to have plateaued. Since around 2010, global research collaboration has stagnated and even declined in some cases, although there was no decrease in the overall number of contributed papers.

Third, the EU’s RTOs are a key driver of the EU’s research power. They contributed 36% of the EU’s total papers in 2022, twice as many as EU companies. Imec in Belgium and CEA-Leti in France are, by far, the leading RTOs in the EU. We also observe that RTOs increasingly are collaborating with companies outside the EU, as paper contributions from EU companies have decreased substantially since the early 2000s.[1]


  1. Julia Hess, Jan-Peter Kleinhans, Laurenz Hemmen, Lisa Koeritz, "Who is developing the chips of the future? RELOADED "