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March 18th, 2008
Nonetheless, the concept pitched by Borel—a French engineer who spent 22 years in R&D at ST—is striking in its audacity. The very suggestion of such an arrangement points to a growing disillusionment in Europe with the market positions of the region's biggest electronics companies. Some market watchers contend the chip companies' competitiveness hasn't been sufficiently honed under their current operating structures.
Borel also has precedent on his side: the creation of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS), the European aerospace corporation formed by the merger in 2000 of Germany's DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG, France's Aérospatiale-Matra and Spain's Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA.
Established to pursue European strategic interests, EADS develops and markets civil and military aircraft, missiles, space rockets, satellites and related systems. EADS unit Airbus SAS has competed effectively against U.S. civil aviation giant Boeing Co.; EADS and U.S.-based partner Northrop Grumman recently beat out Boeing to win a U.S. Air Force contract for modernized refueling tankers.
Borel's argument hinges on the assertion that nanoelectronics R&D and manufacturing are of strategic interest to France and Europe and should not be left to evaporate. He is asking national and European authorities to bring three regional champions together to form a pan-European semiconductor heavyweight with global heft. The ability to compete on the scale of Intel and Samsung would be the commercial bonus; Europe's avoidance of reliance on companies like IBM Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd would be the political side of the coin.
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