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Securing the technology that underpins innovation

An electronic circuit board. © Shutterstock/ Chungking
An electronic circuit board. © Shutterstock/ Chungking

Electronic systems are at the heart of new technology, and a partnership between the EU and industry aims to secure Europe's supply. 

The multi-billion-euro collaboration between the EU, Member States, and the electronics industry, called Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL), will combine public and private money to bring innovation to new areas of electronics, helping to stimulate growth across Europe.

'It’s not just about this one sector: it’s about every sector enabled and stimulated by new electronic innovations,' Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, said.

The idea behind ECSEL is for large and small companies, research labs, and universities to pool some of their resources and cooperate so that Europe can come up with innovations that help it compete globally. It will help bring state-of-the-art technology to cars, planes, trains, medical and health equipment, home appliances, energy networks, and security systems.

An example of what the ECSEL partnership could achieve is the E3Car project, which led to a 35 % increase in the energy efficiency of a number of components used in electric cars. E3Car was funded under ENIAC, a precursor to ECSEL which focused on nanoelectronics.

That partnership was launched in 2008 along with ARTEMIS, which looked at embedded systems. Together they have funded just over 100 projects, involving some 2 000 organisations. They will be combined to form ECSEL when it launches next year.

'It should spark renewed ambition for the electronic components and systems industry in Europe,' said Eric Schutz, Executive Director of the embedded systems partnership.

‘It’s not just about this one sector: it’s about every sector enabled and stimulated by new electronic innovations.’

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

The ten-year ECSEL partnership will receive up to EUR 1.215 billion from the EU, which will be matched by Member States, while industrial partners will make contributions worth around EUR 2.4 billion. It’s one of five similar partnerships between industry and government, called Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), recently unveiled by the EU.

ECSEL aims to keep Europe at the 'leading edge' in the design and manufacture of micro and nanoelectronics, said Helmut List, Chief Executive of AVL, an Austria-based transport engineering company which is one of the partners.

The partnership will help to stimulate innovation in new areas of technology such as cyber-physical systems, smart integrated systems and micro and nano devices. Technology like this can combine physical objects with computer technology by using systems embedded into things like medical equipment, automated robotic production lines, and smart household devices.

For example, a cyber-physical system developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering connects automated tractors to satellites and sensors in the ground and networks them into a farm computer so that they can autonomously distribute seed, fertiliser, and pesticide at the optimum time.

Creating jobs

ECSEL is part of the EU’s plan to make Europe more competitive, stimulating job-creation and growth by helping push forward research into cutting-edge science and industrial opportunities.Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda.Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda.

'It focuses on results, not only as a platform, but also as an engine for growth and jobs,' said Khalil Rouhana, Director of Components and Systems at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.

It’s also at the heart of the EU's industrial strategy for electronics launched this spring which aims to double Europe's chip production by 2020, overtaking the United States, and help create a quarter of a million jobs.

'Implementing that strategy starts today,' Commissioner Kroes said at the launch of the partnership.

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