AMSTERDAM, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Executives from a group of Europe's largest "photonic" computer chip companies have called on the European Union to support the growing industry with 4.25 billion euros ($4.54 billion) in funding to help it compete with rivals in Asia and the United States.
Photonic semiconductors use light, rather than electrons, to perform calculations, with advantages in speed and power consumption, making them increasingly useful for applications in data centres and cars, among others.
The group presented EU officials at a summit in Eindhoven with an eight-year plan to support and build European supply chains, as well as guaranteeing smaller companies access manufacturing sites to conduct test runs.
"Currently, the EU has a vibrant and growing integrated photonics industry, however, without volume manufacturing, testing and packaging capacity we are incredibly vulnerable to global events and the policies of competitor countries," Johan Veenstra, CEO of SMART Photonics, said at the summit.
The European Union has previously designated photonics as a strategic technology, and named it as an area for potential funding under the 43 billion euro Chips Act passed in April, but it is not clear what resources are actually being devoted to photonics.
SMART, which is a contract manufacturer of photonic chips, raised $110 million in July in a mix of Dutch government funding and debt funding from chipmaker NXP, and equipment makers ASML and VDL Groep, to expand.
Currently most photonics chips, like most chips, are made in Asia, with important intellectual property in the U.S.
The statement said low levels of European manufacturing and over-reliance on Asia in manufacturing and packaging, "threatens the EU's economic security and resilience".
The statement was signed by Germany's XFAB and Aixtron, the Netherlands' SMART Photonics and Phix Photonics Assembly, VLC Photonics of Spain, France's Almae, and Switzerland's Ligentec, as well as PhotonDelta, a public-private partnership in the Netherlands devoted to funding photonics. ($1 = 0.9360 euros) (Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by David Evans)