Driving Innovation in Malta’s semiconductor industry

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Malta Enterprise and imec

A memorandum of Understanding was signed yesterday between Malta Enterprise and imec, the world-leading R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The memorandum signifies Government’s intentions to strengthen the Maltese semiconductor ecosystem. It also consolidates the foundation of Government’s interest in the setting up of a Malta Competence Centre which will provide an array of opportunities for industry.

The signing with imec marks the intention to collaborate which will stimulate and incentivize the industry particularly startups in the areas of chip design. This collaboration intends to provide avenues for students at the University of Malta and Malta Council for Arts, Science & Technology to have better access to imec facilities during their PhD and Masters research programmes. It is also intended to better position Malta based companies to potentially access support measures by imec’s venturing activity addressed towards start-ups in the field of semiconductors. Furthermore, the MoU seeks to explore in more detail how start-ups supported by imec can tap into the unique opportunities that Malta offers in this sector.

Hon Minister Silvo Schembri who presided over the signing ceremony welcomed this initiative and confirmed Government’s drive to continue investing in this very important industry. “We want our industry to drive innovation. We want to encourage the development of Malta based start-ups and SMEs as well as the attraction of foreign direct investment, in the form of fabless chip design companies and facilitate their access to European infrastructure (such as pilot lines and the European Design Platform) together with appropriate funding that can support the growth of their operations. I am optimistic that with the right strategy we can achieve this.”

CEO of Malta Enterprise, the Economic Development Agency of the Maltese Government - Kurt Farrugia, one of the signatories of the MoU, stated that “Malta is not a passive onlooker in the unfolding global geopolitics of semiconductors. Realizing the economic potential, innovative drive and geo-strategic importance of the technology over the decades to come, Malta will be embarking on an exciting journey to continue strengthening the country’s semiconductor ecosystem. The memorandum of understanding with imec is a first initiative and an important step in our strategy. It will be further enhanced with a dedicated semiconductor strategy which we will be working on in the months to come.”

Jo de Boeck, Executive Vice President and Corporate Strategy Officer at imec “pointed out the significance of the document for both organisations and for the entire EU chips industry. The EU chips act defines the ambition of investing in competence centres and skills development. Malta is doing exactly this to capitalise on the opportunity to support and grow their ecosystem. I believe Malta can bring a lot to the table. The investment being made by the country in the IPCEI and the setting up of a competence centre will certainly bring a new wave of innovation.”

Malta is home to one of the largest backend semiconductor manufacturing sites in Europe supplying European clients in strategic industries including the communication and automotive sectors. Moreover, the local semiconductor industry, contributes towards circa 15% of the country’s exported goods, generates around 8% of employment in the manufacturing sector. Malta’s economy is based on SMEs, including SMEs linked to the semiconductor value chain. Moreover, Malta’s academic community is highly active at European level within the areas of Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics design.