Security in the context of the European semiconductor industry : A qualitative content analysis of the European Chips Act

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för ekonomisk historia och internationella relationer

Author: Henrik De Laval; [2023]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Semiconductors are essential in virtually all electronic devices, ranging from civilian to military applications. The semiconductor industry is therefore a critical, and arguably strategic and security-related, industrial sector. Highlighting the complexity of the industry, the semiconductor supply and value chain structure is global, containing various process steps going through actors spread across the world. However, in this there is also a high geographical concentration of actors dominating certain industrial segments. The importance of semiconductors was meanwhile highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered disruptions in the semiconductor supply chain and led to shortages of chips worldwide. Among state actors implementing policies aimed at addressing recent challenges, the European Commission presented its proposal for a European Chips Act in 2022. In this study, this new European semiconductor policy was analyzed using a multidimensional security approach aimed at addressing the strategic importance of the semiconductor industry and its links to security. In this, security was specifically conceptualized around the economic, technological and defense (military) dimensions of security. Employing a version of qualitative content analysis, the study finds that by focusing on descriptions of 1) the main industrial segments within the semiconductor industry, and 2) specific semiconductor end-user sectors in Europe, aspects derived primarily, but not exclusively, from the economic and technological security dimensions can be identified. Within the main industrial segments, examples of findings include the EU lacking economic competitiveness and economic independence, as well as access to competence and infrastructure. Within the European end-user sectors, examples of findings include issues surrounding security of supply, decreased economic competitiveness and access to critical technologies. 

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