How the investments of STMicroelectronics and the state will seep into the Grenoble Valley

Posted July 11, 2022, 7:16 p.mUpdated July 11, 2022 at 7:22 p.m.

Gresivodan Valley can rub hands. Franco-Italian STMicroelectronics is playing up its role as a leader in the semiconductor sector more than ever after announcing on Monday a doubling of its production capacity in Kroll and a roadmap for more precise chip engraving than today. In particular, in the region of Grenoble (Isère), the famous French “Silicon Valley”.

From Soitec to many startups in the industry, companies in the sector will be the first to benefit from the 5 billion euro investment plan that the President of the Republic is to present this Tuesday during a visit to STMicroelectronics. As part of the France 2030 program, this plan should lead to the creation of 5,700 jobs in the sector. The CAC 40 group is raising a significant portion of this amount for the expansion in Crolles, but it will spend some with local suppliers. The balance will be paid directly to other companies, some of whose projects will often be associated with the ST plant.

Opportunities and research missions

“Crolles was a medium-sized site, now it’s global,” says Stefan Siebert, director of technology research at CEA, whose work at the Laboratory of Electronics and Information Technology (Leti) supports the innovation that makes STMicroelectronics and its French partners so successful in last years. With this new scope, “ST” should provide them with opportunities. For example, Soitec, another semiconductor nugget in France, is supplying STMicroelectronics with the substrates on which the Franco-Italians will etch the low-power ICs (FD-SOI) that will roll out of the Crolles fab at accelerated speeds.

Located in Bernina, a few kilometers from Crolles, Soitec engineers are also expected to carry out research and development, while STMicroelectronics aims to market chips with a space between two transistors of just 18 nanometers (nm) within four years. , compared to 28 nm at the moment. “To make 18nm a success, we need Soitec,” says Stephan Siebert.

CEA-Leti in front of the new plant

For its part, the CEA Electronics Research Laboratory will now work on post-18nm. To finance this new research and development program, the company will receive state aid of “several hundred million euros”, including to equip a new pilot production line in a new clean room.

On the other hand, concerns are starting to arise in other French semiconductor ecosystems. In Bouches-du-Rhône, workers at STMicroelectronics’ Rousset plant are upset to see the group’s new investment pass under their noses, while Crolles simultaneously integrates two expansion projects. “The investment in France and the creation of 1,000 jobs at Crolles is certainly positive, but we are starting to ask questions about the future of the Rousse plant,” says Nadia Salhi on behalf of CGT at STMicroelectronics.

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