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There is no better adjective than eventful to describe the past few days in the Dutch chip sector. From the proposals coming from the North Netherlands and Twente regions to a call to the newly appointed government for new funding, this article takes stock of the latest developments, which follow up on the Beethoven project.

Under the name ‘Project Beethoven‘ the national government and the Eindhoven Brainport region allocated €2.51 billion to strengthen the Dutch microchip sector. This investment is both for talent and regional development- also including measures for affordable housing in the Eindhoven area.

Why this is important:

The Dutch chip industry is one of the most advanced, putting the Netherlands on a competitive edge in developing crucial chip technology. However, some leading sector companies are requesting more support from the newly appointed government to strengthen the industry.

Northern Netherlands sees its ambitions scaled down

As part of the Beethoven initiative, the northern region of the Netherlands was also asked to present ambitious plans to contribute to the future of the chip sector. Therefore, it came up with a plan aiming to produce over 16,000 engineering graduates in five years. However, the reality has proven harsher than the aspirations. The funding received – €30 million, while it asked for €265 million – is a mere fraction of what was proposed, leaving the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) and its partners grappling with the challenge of scaling down their vision.

ASML, a heavyweight in the global semiconductor industry and a key player in this initiative stands to benefit from the talent that the project promised. Yet, the allocation of funds has been disproportionate, heavily favoring Eindhoven’s Brainport region and leaving the north with a significantly smaller slice of the pie. This has, understandably, led to disappointment and a pending decision from the Second Chamber following a formal letter expressing these concerns.

Twente’s comprehensive proposal

Not to be outdone, the Twente region has also put forth its comprehensive plan to reinforce the national microchip sector. The Beethoven project here focuses on an innovative approach to education, aiming to add thousands of students to programs relevant to the chip industry by 2030. Twente has also taken the initiative to establish a Semicon Learning Centre, designed to foster collaboration between vocational, higher, and academic education institutions and the industry.

The region’s preparedness to accommodate additional talent, both in terms of education and housing, is commendable. Ank Bijleveld, chair of the Twente Board, emphasizes the region’s dedication to nurturing and retaining talent for the Netherlands. The approach is inclusive, seeking to tap into underrepresented groups, thus broadening the pool of potential experts in the semiconductor field.

ChipNL consortium’s urgent call for funding

Meanwhile, the Dutch chip sector is calling for extra support from the newly sworn-in government. Over thirty companies, including giants ASML and NXP, are appealing for substantial annual investments from the government. They argue that without such support, the Netherlands risks losing its competitive edge, as global competition intensifies and other nations ramp up their investments. The sector’s plea is clear: an annual boost of €100 to 150 million is essential to maintain the country’s lead in chip manufacturing and innovation.

Paul Verhagen of ASM International and Núria Barceló Peiró of NXP have both highlighted the critical need for this investment. They stress that while some companies are thriving financially, the imbalance in government support could skew the playing field, potentially driving the industry abroad. Gelderland province is particularly anxious about this, fearing the loss of tech companies generating billions in revenue.

Work to do for the government

After King Willem Alexander gave his blessing, the cabinet led by former intelligence boss Dick Schoof was sworn in, marking the official entry into the office of the new government. It will now be its task to decide on the future of the country’s chip sector, one of the most advanced worldwide.

As money to support the National Growth Fund was scrapped, how the new government will proceed remains unclear. Political reporter Roel Bolsius informed that the new government coalition values money for research, and although funds should not come only from the government, companies should also step in.