Top leaders speak at TU/e about contributing to Europe’s technological sovereignty

Eindhoven University of Technology

An exceptional line-up of speakers will take center stage at the Opening of the Academic Year of TU/e, with the theme ‘Contributing to Europe’s Technological Sovereignty’. The event, on September 5, features keynotes from European Commissioner Thierry Breton, the Netherlands’ Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Micky Adriaansens and ASML CEO Peter Wennink. The contribution of the Netherlands to technological sovereignty, in particular through the Brainport Eindhoven high-tech ecosystem, will be one of the main topics. The event is being livestreamed by Science | Business.

Technological sovereignty

The changing geopolitical landscape and recent crises have exposed Europe’s vulnerability within global supply chains. There is growing awareness in Europe that reducing dependencies on critical materials, products and technologies is vital. That is why the EU aims to strengthen its technological leadership. The European Commission recently launched the European Chips Act, aimed at strengthening Europe’s semiconductor ecosystem. “European high-tech innovation ecosystems, like Brainport Eindhoven, are crucial for the long-term success of Europe’s competitiveness and resilience,” says Robert-Jan Smits, President of TU/e. “That is why the Opening of the Academic Year in Eindhoven is an ideal opportunity to bring some of the key players on stage to exchange views and discuss how to align agendas.”

Open strategic autonomy for a resilient and competitive EU industry

Globalization is deeply enshrined in Europe’s DNA. International trade and global value chain integration are vital for our economy. Nevertheless, in the context of the increasingly challenging political environment, the EU needs to find the means to harness globalization differently. “We need to reinvent Europe’s industrial culture, based on more strategic foresight, a more holistic approach to value chains and a more assertive stance on the world stage,” says Breton. To gear up for this new imperative, breakthrough technologies are one of indispensable vehicles that can take us through the digital and green transition, and eventually towards long-term resilience. One of the key initiatives of the European Commission in this regard is the European Chips Act, which will enable the EU to increase its current market share to 20% of global production in 2030. The proposal will build on Europe’s strengths – world-leading research and technology organizations and networks as well as a host of pioneering equipment manufacturers – and address outstanding weaknesses. “Europe cannot miss out in the technological race for the semiconductors of the future and holds very good cards as it has an excellent research base. However, we need to help this innovation reach industrialization – from the lab to the fab.”

The Netherlands’ industrial policy

The Netherlands’ government is both supporting the agenda of the European Commission to strengthen crucial technology like microchips and is intensifying its own efforts to secure a level playing field and to support innovation and sustainability. “An open economy and international cooperation remain our default position,” says Micky Adriaansens, Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. “But our industry, the development of innovative technologies in Europe and ultimately future economic growth, should not be too dependent on other countries. This is why we commit to public funds as well, in addition to private financing.” Recently the Dutch government launched a new industry policy to achieve these goals and allocated 230 million euros for six projects to reinforce the country’s capacities in microchips production technology. Five of these projects are Brainport based. One of them is a project by Smart Photonics, a scale-up company that started as TU/e spin-off and has strong cooperation with TU/e. “For sure the Brainport ecosystem has the special attention of me and my fellow ministers,” says Adriaansens. “It is of national relevance in increasing technological sovereignty but definitely also because of the region’s large contribution to research, innovation and national economic growth.”

ASML whitepaper

A key technology player in Europe is the Brainport-based company ASML, a leading chip machine manufacturer. ASML’s technology is used by chipmakers all over the world and ASML is currently one of Europe’s most valuable enterprises. ASML supports the European Commission’s ambitions and the European Chips Act. Earlier this year, the company published a whitepaper in support of the European Chips Act, but also stressed the need for a wider focus. ASML CEO Wennink: “To help Europe strengthen its position in the global semiconductor ecosystem, we need investments in chip factories for mature and advanced microchips, but also in R&D facilities, in world-class education and in workforce availability.”

TU/e: a key provider of talent

“Industry in the Brainport region is growing exponentially and has asked us to double the supply of highly qualified engineers,” says TU/e President Smits. “We are absolutely willing to help our regional partners, by doubling in size and thereby improving workforce availability. The scale jump will require upfront investment by the government in both the university and student housing. Not only will this help make the most out of the region’s great economic potential, it is also an investment in technological sovereignty.”

The final keynote op September 5 will be given by TU/e rector Frank Baaijens. Before officially opening the academic year, he will address the current state of affairs at TU/e and the developments and plans for the year ahead.

Time and location

The Opening of the Academic Year of Eindhoven University of Technology is on Monday September 5, 2022, in the Blauwe Zaal of the Auditorium building, from 15:00 to 16:45.

The event will be livestreamed by media partner Science|Business.

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