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Europe sees nano-electronics as 'future oil'

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A group of Europe-based technology companies and research organisations has called on the European Commission to co-ordinate massive public and private investment in the transition from micro to nano-scale electronics.

The group, which includes representatives from Nokia, AMD, Philips, IBM and Ericsson presented the report today to Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for all things techie, and his colleague Philippe Busquin, European Research Commissioner. It calls for investment of at least €6bn per year to bolster Europe's bid to lead the world in the sector it says will be "the oil of the future economy".

"Europe cannot afford to miss the next generation of electronic applications that will be for our future economy what oil is for today’s economy," Research Commissioner Busquin said. He argued that shrinking electronic components to the point that they "disappear" helps people to participate in the "knowledge society", a reference, perhaps, to Arthur C. Clarke's opinion that any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic.

Liikanen argued that such investment would be worthwhile because it would feed back into the economy. He said: "Nanoelectronics [has] a potential for creating a significant number of highly skilled jobs and boosting growth and competitiveness in most other industrial sectors."

Business and government administrations in the US and Europe have recognised the future value of the nanotech sector in general, and each has underlined the need for investment in order to get the jump on the other. Regular readers will know that most of these announcements have been fairly general. This one, however, is a little more specific, focussing as it does on the transition from micro-electronics to nano-electronics.

The Commission now plans to launch the European Nano-electronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC), which will be chaired by STMicroelectronics’ President and CEO Pasquale Pistorio. (Presumably it is accidental that the acronym for the program matches that of the first programmeable computer in the US, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.)

The new ENIAC will be a public-private partnership responsible for drawing up a strategic research agenda for nano-electronics in Europe, and implementing it. ®

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