What are Trusted Chips?With billions of dollars being invested in the development and standardization of secure, reliable, and trusted chips, a comprehensive overview of the EU’s Trusted Chips Program and EU Chips Act is required. This blog post provides valuable insights and behind-the-scenes knowledge into the terminology, milestones, key events, and legislative initiatives from the perspective of a Trusted Chips Young Professional.
In October 2023, I had the honor of being selected as one of four young professionals in Germany to be part of the Trusted Chips Young Professional Program and shape the future of the European semiconductor industry by developing a standardization roadmap for secure and trusted chips, in line with the EU Chips Act.
Working closely with international experts in the semiconductor field, our main objective is to support European Union legislation and policies by providing a comprehensive overview of the current state of semiconductor standardization. Over the 1.5 year duration of the program, we will identify gaps and needs in current standardization and propose further steps and activities as well as prepare revisions of European standardization deliverables. This revision is essential to ensure that there is an EU-wide set of rules and requirements for the development and quality assurance of semiconductor products. This will enable the EU to strengthen its competitiveness and confidence in the European semiconductor industry on the global market in order to double the European share of the global semiconductor market to 20% by 2030.
Addressing the global standardization of semiconductors, the technical committee IEC/TC 47 “Semiconductor Devices” focuses on establishing international standards governing the design, production, utilization, and reusability of discrete semiconductor devices. In an effort to enhance European involvement in this realm, CENELEC has instituted the technical committee CLC/TC 47X, mirroring the activities of IEC/TC 47 at the European level. Under the German leadership of Uwe Rüddenklau, Germany assumes a pivotal role in this committee, actively contributing to the standardization of trusted chips within Germany, across Europe, and on the global stage.
However, this begs the question: “What are trusted chips?” Read on to find out!
Trusted Chips Program
Aiming to create new legislation to alleviate the chips shortage and reduce dependence on non-European semiconductor manufacturers, the European Commission published the Annual Union Working Program (AUWP) in 2022 to “develop standards in support of the certification of chips to ensure that they are secure, authentic, and reliable.” (AUWP 2022) This laid the foundations for the European Chips Act to “promote a state-of-the-art European chip ecosystem to boost our innovative capacity, security of supply and develop new markets for ground-breaking European tech.” (Commission Work 2022 Programme, 5)
The European Chips Act was passed on the 21st of September 2023, seeking to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness and resilience in the semiconductor industry with 42 billion Euros invested. In addition, this Act set measures to prepare, anticipate, and swiftly respond to any future supply chain disruptions. With over 1 trillion microchips being manufactured worldwide in 2020 and the EU only having a 10% share of this market, the Act aims to double European semiconductor production capacities by 2030. As achieving this goal requires careful thought and planning, the CENELEC Technical Board (CLC/BT) received a call for proposals from the European Commission. The DKE , as a CENELEC member organization, proposed a sponsorship project to “develop a roadmap which provides a clear terminology, overview of the current situation in semiconductor standardization, identifying gaps and needs in standardization, proposing further steps and activities and a preparation of revisions of European standardization deliverables which support the European Union legislation and policies.” This proposal was then put into place after the approval of the European Commission on the 6th of May 2022.
Having been launched in August 2023, this 2-year project is divided into two phases, which will run from 2023 Q4 to 2026 Q1:
This phase aims to identify current and future needs, conduct gap-analysis and gain support from European Stakeholders to validate the roadmap.
Parallel to Phase 1, the European Commission will implement the suggestions through the CLC/TC 47X .
To measure progress, the project has also been subdivided into two work packages (WPs), each with their own deliverables:
WP1: Organization, coordination, and specification of the project scope and identification of stakeholders
Deliverables: Progress report (13 & 25 months after start)
WP2: Terminology, status quo, market needs & gaps, and future activities
Deliverables: Roadmap (30 months after start)
Timeline of events
European Commission Publishes Annual Union Working Program (AUWP)
Approval of DKE Proposal by European Commission
Enactment of the EU Chips Act
Launch of Trusted Chips Program (Phase 1)
Selection for Trusted Chips Young Professional Program
Stakeholder Workshop 1
Stakeholder Workshop 2
End Phase 1 of Trusted Chips Program
End Phase 2 of Trusted Chips Program
As a Trusted Chips Young Professional, I had the privilege of participating in the DKE Stakeholder Workshop Semiconductors on the 13th of November in Frankfurt and was honored to play an active part in defining the terminology and developing the roadmap. As part of the workshop, I was able to appreciate the complexity of using English, a flawed language for its imprecise and subjective definitions, to properly scope the Trusted Chips Program. Spending hours on what seemed like trivial wordplay to me at the beginning, we carefully had to piece together words in an unambiguous way to define what was meant by “Trusted Chips.” In the end, we came up with the following definition:
Trusted chips [is defined] in terms of hardware and firmware along the entire supply chain, from chip design to final assembly manufacturer. Every step should be secure and authentic
However, after careful, retrospective deliberation, I believe that this definition can be improved upon using wording found in the EC’s AUWP 2022: “Trusted Chips is defined in terms of hardware and firmware along the entire supply chain, from chip design to integration in end products, wherein every step is secure, reliable, and authentic, ensuring verified trust in the integrity of the chip.” Most critically, I believe we need complete transparency and due diligent disclosure of all tiers of suppliers and manufacturing conditions. This, however, will need to be revised and iterated upon during our next session, taking place in early 2024.
Being selected as a Trusted Chips Young Professional has widened my perspective in the world of standardization and what goes on in the background to ensure that consumers are buying products that are safe, innovative, and trustworthy. Through this opportunity, I am able to play an active part in policy design and negotiations among global stakeholders to shape the future and aim to use my privileged access to make the decision process more transparent. I am extremely grateful to Alena Widder, Rosalia Virga, Stipe Mandic, Christian Marian, and Uwe Rüddenklau for their continued support during the program.
Reach out if you have any questions or feedback and stay tuned for more exciting information as I share my experience and a sneak peek behind the scenes of one of the quickest growing industries in the EU!