© Ministero dello sviluppo economico

This week the cleanroom, the central part of STMicroelectronics’ new semiconductor manufacturing plant in Agrate near Milan, Italy, was unveiled. The completion of the central part will ensure that production can start in a year’s time.

The first of its generation

The plant will produce silicon wafers with a diameter of 300 millimeters. It is the first of its generation in Italy and one of the few such plants in Europe. STMicroelectronics (STM for short) is a French-Italian company in which both states hold a minority stake.
Present at the cleanroom launch was Giancarlo Giorgetti, Italy’s Minister of Economic Development. “STM is an example of industrial success at the transnational level,” the minister said. He pointed out that in Brussels the topics of Europe’s strategic autonomy and technological sovereignty are central.

A European response

The commissioning last week of a chip factory in Stuttgart, Germany, is also seen in this context, where Bosch is beginning production of complex semiconductors for the automotive industry. The production sites in Stuttgart and Agrate are reversing a trend. Over the past thirty years, the share of European manufacturers in the global semiconductor industry has fallen to 9%. The initiatives in Italy and Germany can therefore be seen as Europe’s answer to the shortage of microchips, the bulk of which are made in Asia. It should be noted, however, that STM’s project was launched in 2018, long before the shortages manifested themselves.

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    The minister’s visit to the cleanroom was also in the context of the announcement of the new collaboration between STM and the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy, a top European institution. A joint research center for advanced materials for sensors will be established in the coming years. The main goal is to convert research into technological innovation of microelectromechanical systems, in which STM has traditionally been strong.

    Five European production sites

    STM is one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world. The Italian-French company has eleven production sites, including five in Europe (Agrate, Catania, Crolles, Rousset, and Tours). The group was founded in 1987 under the name SGS-Thomson as a result of the merger between SGS Microelectronics (Italy) and Thomson Semiconducteurs (France). In 1998, the company changed its name to STMicroelectronics.

    Read also how the Dutch semiconductor industry benefits from cooperation

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Ewout Kieckens is a Dutch journalist in Rome who writes about Italian lifestyle and culture. He has written books on diverse subjects such as the Vatican and Italian design. He is very interested in innovations, especially Italian contributions to progress.