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How can Finland take part in the global microchip race? Experts list three advantages

We continued our Deep Tech Tuesday event series with experts from various fields to discuss the fascinating world of chip technology. The insightful event highlighted how microchips continue to advance our technological capabilities, foster innovation, and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Deep tech tuesday

We continued our Deep Tech Tuesday event series with experts from various fields to discuss the fascinating world of chip technology. The insightful event highlighted how microchips continue to advance our technological capabilities, foster innovation, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Chips are crucial for advanced technology applications and drive the green transition through digital progress. The global semiconductor shortage has spurred swift actions, notably in the European Commission with the €15 billion European Chips Act to bolster STEM programs, attract talent, and build infrastructure.

At the event, experts from different areas explored the role of microchips in global competition, technological sovereignty, and green transition.

Microelectronics Design in Finland

The event's keynote speaker, Jussi Ryynänen, Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering at Aalto University, shared insights into the state of microelectronics design in Finland.

“In today's digital age, integrated circuits (ICs) play a vital role in our everyday lives. These tiny electronic platforms are the backbone of nearly all modern devices using electricity. From computers and mobile phones to cars and key cards, integrated circuits are an integral part of our society. ICs have allowed us to miniaturize and streamline devices, making them more portable, efficient, and affordable,” Ryynänen told.

While ICs have been instrumental in improving energy efficiency and enabling cost and size reductions, their production does consume natural resources, like water. Additionally, electronic devices require energy for operations. Despite these challenges, the integration of electronics into traditional devices and processes has led to significant energy savings, from process and home automation to the electrification of cars and environmental monitoring.

Finland boasts a strong IC design ecosystem, with great capabilities in essential fields. At Aalto, the research focuses on design efficiency, complex mixed-mode design, and the use of modern technologies.

“Collaboration is an essential part of our research. Maintaining Finland’s edge requires continuous, large investments and expertise. As universities, it's our responsibility to educate the next generation of experts and keep up with the rapidly evolving industry,” Ryynänen concluded.

Harnessing Finland's Strengths in Microchip Technology

Despite being a small country, Finland has emerged as a potential leader with its expertise in specialized semiconductor technology. However, accelerating this development requires a strong vision, investments, and collaboration, as outlined in the recent 'Chips from Finland' initiative. In Deep Tech Tuesday’s panel discussion Erja Turunen, Executive VP of digital technologies at VTT, Himadri Majumdar, CEO & co-founder of SemiQon, and Joonas Mikkilä, Senior Advisor at Teknologiateollisuus, together with panel host Kalle Airo, Aalto’s Head of Entrepreneurial Mindset, shed light on the future of microchip technology and how Finland can stay ahead of the curve.

1. Finland needs to specialize

Panelists emphasized that for Finland to stay relevant in the evolving semiconductor and microchip industry, it needs to strategically choose and excel in specific areas. According to them, the opportunity for Finland to become a leading microchip manufacturer has passed. However, Finland has substantial potential to lead in specialized semiconductor technology and in technologies that utilize microchip technology and integrated circuit design. The country already has a strong foundation to build upon, with existing government programs, initiatives, and successful companies. The strategy should be to further identify and focus on areas where Finland already excels.

So, what are these areas where Finland could lead? According to the panelists, materials technology, particularly with advancements in Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), is one potential area where Finland is already a world leader. Another promising area is quantum technologies, with several successful Finnish companies already leading the way in quantum technology development. Growth in these sectors can fuel further expansion, creating a virtuous cycle of improvement and investment.

2. Turning research expertise into businesses

The global competition in the semiconductor and microchip industry is intense, and the industry is highly globalized. This means no single country or region can dominate or dictate its evolution, leading to many dependencies.

Europe, for example, has shown particular strength in conducting cutting-edge research in this field. However, when it comes to the commercialization of this research, the continent falls behind. According to the panelists, there is a pressing need to cultivate a stronger entrepreneurial mindset within Europe's semiconductor industry. This not only aids in bridging the gap between research and commercialization but also fosters innovation and growth in this crucial sector.

3. Talent is the crucial driver

Talent is undoubtedly a key driver of growth in any sector, particularly in advanced fields like semiconductors and microchip technology. Specialized education is undeniably essential to developing the specific skills required in these areas. Finland, known for creating successful companies, exemplifies this. However, these companies couldn't thrive without the dedicated and skilled individuals behind them.

It's important to note that the demand for talent and future entrepreneurs can pose a significant challenge. Addressing this shortfall should be a priority. A potent solution is through the education system. Professors, as influencers and leaders in academia, have a unique opportunity to inspire and actively motivate their students to delve into entrepreneurship. This could spark new interests and passions, potentially leading to an upsurge in entrepreneurial activities and, consequently, economic growth.

Overall, Deep Tech Tuesday event was a testament to Finland's potential in the microchip industry and underscored the importance of specific knowledge, talent, and education in this domain. Through courage, collaboration, and strategic focus we can transform expertise into innovation, creating new business opportunities and economic growth and seize the opportunities presented by the evolving microchip technology landscape.

Deep Tech Tuesday is an event series focusing on different areas of deep technology. Deep Tech Tuesday brings together researchers, entrepreneurs, decision-makers, and students who are shaping a sustainable future.

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