Veneto and Piedmont compete for a large chip factory

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Last week the news agency Reuters wrote that the Italian government would choose the site where a new large factory of Intel, one of the most important microprocessor manufacturers in the world, will be built. The municipality chosen, second Reuters, is Vigasio, located in the province of Verona, in Veneto. A few hours after the article was published, however, the Ministry of Innovation was quick to point out that the choice was not final. In addition to Veneto, in fact, Piedmont also said it was ready to make an industrial area available for the new factory. The dispute between the two regions, which began months ago, is still ongoing.

Intel unveiled a major investment plan in Europe last March. The company said that 80 billion euros will be spent over the next ten years to build or expand companies in European countries and in this way strengthen the production chain of microchips, now imported almost exclusively from abroad.

Microchips (or simply chips) are fundamental components of many products, not just electronics. Although we often think above all of those present in computers and smartphones, chips are now essential for any device that has at least one electronic part. In a car, for example, there are dozens of them, and they are used to manage the electric windows, the on-board computer, the entertainment system, the airbags, the parking sensors and so on.

– Read also: Where microchips are born

Intel’s new European companies will be involved in research and development of new products, but also the actual construction of the chips and their distribution. The plan includes an investment of 17 billion euros in Germany for the construction of two factories in Magdeburg, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where about three thousand people will work. Near Plateau de Saclay, in the south-western area of ​​Paris, Intel will build the new research and development pole, the main European headquarters for the design of so-called supercomputers, computers that allow processing an enormous amount of data.

Intel would like to bring part of the production phase called back end to Italy, one of the last before distribution. To make a microchip, in fact, several hundred steps are required that serve to make a thin layer of silicon, called a “slice”, a series of microprocessors: the Italian factory would test the chips according to the characteristics for which they were built , to cut and package them with a process that will then allow them to be inserted correctly in electronic devices.

Intel has said it is ready to spend 4.5 billion euros to build the new company, of which a part will be covered by a contribution from the state: it is one of the most significant foreign investments in recent years, among other things in a very innovative. According to forecasts, 1,500 people will work indefinitely in the factory and an indefinite amount of around 3,500 jobs will be created. The possible economic repercussions were enough to create a certain competition, especially among the regions of northern Italy.

After a long initial selection, the two remaining places are Vigasio, in Veneto, and an area between Volpiano and Settimo Torinese, in the hinterland of Turin, in Piedmont. The two municipalities have different advantages. Vigasio is in a strategic position, close to the Brenner motorway and the railway used to transport goods from Italy to Germany and vice versa. The connections with Magdeburg, from which the chips ready for the final stage of production would come, would be very fast. Between Volpiano and Settimo Torinese, however, there is a large area occupied in the past by Eni and Pirelli, close to Spea, a company that manufactures automatic machines for testing microchips for large groups such as Apple, Bosch and Marelli. In short, with Intel, one of the most important European microchip poles at European level would be born in Piedmont.

In recent months, the two hypotheses have been carefully evaluated by the officials of the Ministry of Innovation. The question, as you can imagine, is not only technical, but also political. Both the president of Veneto Luca Zaia and that of Piedmont Alberto Cirio have worked extensively to secure Intel’s investments. In mid-September, a first agreement was signed between the state and the multinational, in which, however, the place where the factory will be built is not mentioned: unless sudden decisions are made, the Draghi government will leave the choice to the next government.

As written by Reuters, at the moment it seems that Veneto has a few more chances of winning the competition. On Friday 30 September, during the meeting of the Assindustria Venetocentro business association, Zaia confirmed that he had been working on the proposal for over a year and that he had managed to recover the disadvantage compared to Piedmont thanks to “incredible guarantees” made available by his Region . “We’re talking about a new Silicon Valley here,” he said. Instead Cirio, the president of Piedmont, after the article by Reuters he obtained reassurance from the Minister of Innovation Vittorio Colao: «everyone confirmed to me that there have been no steps forward and no choices have been made».

The new Intel factory will allow Italy to become one of the main nodes of the European microchip supply chain, on which the European Union is also directly investing following the production crisis caused in part by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and in part due to the crisis in global trade.

The shortage of microchips, which has caused great difficulties in several sectors including the automotive sector, today seems to be less serious than at the end of 2021, but the European Union’s goal is to prevent new problems in the future. Currently, the global production of microchips, especially the most sophisticated ones, is dominated by three countries: the United States, South Korea and above all Taiwan, which with its multinational TSMC has 54 percent of the world market share.

– Read also: There are not enough microchips for health cards

The European plan, called the European Chips Act and presented last February, provides for a total investment of 43 billion euros, divided between public funding and private investments, as well as the establishment of a specific fund for investments and a relaxation of the rules for aid. of state by member countries. The goal, explained the Commission, is to reach 2030 with a 20% share of world production of microchips. Currently, the European Union’s microchip production is about 9 per cent of that worldwide.

According to various entrepreneurs in the sector, the European Union’s goal is too ambitious. “We have calculated that we would need an investment of 500 billion euros to reach the target of a market share of 20%,” said last week Kurt Sievers, managing director of NXP Semiconductors, a leading European chip maker. based in the Netherlands.

Other countries have presented much more demanding and expensive plans: South Korea has approved a 10-year plan worth $ 450 billion (almost all provided by the private sector), while China, in the decade 2015-2025, has invested and will invest 150 billion .

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About Eric Wilson

The variety offered by video games never ceases to amaze him. He loves OutRun's drifting as well as the contemplative walks of Dear Esther. Immersing himself in other worlds is an incomparable feeling for him: he understood it by playing for the first time in Shenmue.

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