Malta Enterprise has signed a deal with international microelectronics research centre Imec (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre).

The memorandum of understanding will enable University and MCAST students to get better access to Imec facilities during their postgraduate studies, facilitate Malta-based firms in the sector in obtaining Imec start-up support and provide them with opportunities to expand their business.

Imec is a world-leading R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies that is headquartered in Belgium.

The EU has made a concerted effort to ramp up EU-led research and production of microchips, as fears about the reliance on foreign manufacturing in places like Taiwan and the US grow.

In 2023 it introduced the European Chips Act, intended to make it easier to tap funding related to semiconductor-related industries. The act is expected to lead to more than €15 billion in additional public and private investment in the EU’s semiconductor sector.

As part of that EU-led initiative, Malta obtained approval to inject €20 million in state aid into Malta-based semiconductor manufacuter STMicroelectronics. The company will use that money to upgrade its production lines.

The local semiconductor industry contributes around 15 per cent of Malta’s exported goods and generates around 8 per cent of all employment in the manufacturing sector, the government said in a statement announcing the Imec deal.

Economy Minister  Silvio Schembri, who presided over the signing ceremony between Malta Enterprise and Imec, said the government wants to encourage start-ups n the sector and make it easier for them to access European infrastructure.

“I am optimistic that with the right strategy, we can achieve this,” he said.

Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia said the MOU with Imec was “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, said Malta was doing well to make use of the EU Chips Act.

“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.,” he said.

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