Why the global semiconductors crisis affects us

In the last two years, the scarcity of semiconductors has become a global problem. The shortage of microchips is a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic situation and the closure of some factories and companies. This situation has affected many sectors, demonstrating the importance of these components nowadays.

The semiconductors are electronic components that have the property of conducting electricity, it allows current to pass or not to pass, depending on what a given circuit requires at every moment. Its function is to collect information, process it, store it, and then transmit it. Semiconductors are the essential building blocks of digital and digitised products, from smartphones to cars, through critical applications and infrastructures for healthcare, energy, mobility, communications, and industrial automation.

Microchips can be found in integrated circuits, optical sensors, lasers and electrical transmission modulators. Their versatility is what has given them the relevance they have today. For this reason, their scarcity has made many industries to experience issues, compromising production, which in turn can make their products more expensive or can make them run out of stock.

The production of semiconductors is concentrated in Asia, specifically in countries as South Korea, China and Taiwan and this concentration has been a problem since the beginning of the Covid-19. The cutting supply lines caused bottlenecks and microchips were not arriving in the required amounts to the industries to finish their products. In addition to these disastrous consequences, the supply crisis causes delays in the execution of European projects, as is the case of our iToBoS project, since delivery times are delayed much longer than initially planned and costs have increased.

Faced with this situation, governments around the world are trying to find solutions. Companies are already working on new, more efficient and less polluting materials that ensure both an environmentally friendly approach and digitisation. Materials such as graphene help technologies such as 5G realise their full potential. Such developments may be the key to securing the connectivity of the future.

The EC recently proposed the European Chips Act to confront semiconductor shortages and strengthen Europe's technological leadership. The proposed European Chips Act will boost the Europe’s technological sovereignty, competitiveness, ensure the resilience of supply chains and reduce external dependencies.