By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Commission has approved 8.1 billion euros ($8.7 billion) of state aid for microelectronics and communication technology projects as part of the European Union’s drive to be at the cutting edge of technological innovation.
The EU executive said on Thursday that 14 member countries could provide the aid to 68 projects involving companies including Airbus, ASML and Ericsson.
The projects have been collectively designated an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), qualifying them for easier EU state aid rules. They follow an earlier batch of IPCEI projects in the same sector approved in 2018.
The projects, which involve a total of 56 companies, include research and development into materials and tools, as well as chip design and manufacturing processes. They target 5G and 6G telecoms technology, along with autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.
The first novel products could come to market as early as 2025, while the overall project is expected to be completed by 2032.
“We need to be pioneers. We need to develop truly innovative solutions and of course their first industrial deployments in Europe,” Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton said the projects would speed up the development of a European supply chain for components for radar and space applications and the rollout of electric vehicles as well as contribute to developing cutting edge AI chips.
The Commission hopes the projects will attract 13.7 billion euros in additional private investment. Other participating companies include GlobalFoundries, Orange, Analog Devices, Continental Automotive and Bosch.
Renault, NXP, STMicroelectronics,, Wacker Chemie and Infineon are also taking part in the projects.
Countries providing the state aid are Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
They can claw back part of the state aid from projects that are very successful.
($1 = 0.9314 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)