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How is the semiconductor industry in Europe?

It depends on your world view if you want to know why the semiconductor industry in Europe is a bit behind.

It is NOT a coincidence that the US and China battle for AI domination.

There is something in the EU but not nearly enough.

IMEC is mentioned here, but the Belgians actually fund the research that brings Samsung and TSMC fabs to the cutting edge of silicon technology.

From a European standpoint, that is just stupid.

Salary

The salary of a HW designer is nowhere near the levels of what it should be.

Mainly half the US salary for the same seniority.

Plus in Europe they strongly believe in redistribution of wealth.

This means heavy taxes, so less bruto salary and more taxes, means Europe is not a good place to work for income reasons.

Conservative

No offense to wordpress designers, but even those can work remote and make more per hour than a senior ASIC engineer with 20 years of experience.

In Europe they are paranoid about employees due to the rigid labor laws.

Employees can’t be trusted when they are not in an office building.

Certainly not engineers.

They hire locally, and if they look outside their region, employees must relocate.

Also for freelancers, they need to go on site.

Anyone working as a freelancer in the EU gets a call every 3 months about this “excellent opportunity, interesting rate in a great and innovative company.”

In Sweden.

If they find someone, chances are that the freelancer will not extend the contract because Sweden is a little bit cold in winter times.

They rather have nobody than allow an engineer to work remote.

And I am talking running EDA tools on the servers with a VNC session, like they do on-site.

They rather miss deadlines and be late with a chip than allow a person to work remote.

Yes, it can happen in other continents as well, but it is really extreme in Europe.

Working with remote teams is different but change is frowned upon.

We do it like we did it 20 years ago.

No working from home.

Plus, this conservative attitude extends to tools even if those tools have proven to be successful.

One example is makefiles.

Makefiles come from the software world.

Hardware could see how they are sued and their benefits.

So some teams use it.

But it is sad to see how.

They use makefiles to compile HDL code, just like they would use a shell script that just recompiles everything over and over again.

Well, the benefit of makefiles is that based on the hierarchy of the design, the dependencies are clear.

Hence if a toplevel file changes, there is no need to recompile the rest of the tree that doesn’t depend on that code.

Saves time, lots of time and compute (and network) load.

Nope, don’t want it.

Version control?

Yes, we are using version control.

But asking questions that go deeper than “are you using version control” show a different picture.

Do you use branches?

No.

Tags?

Euh, no.

So you all commit to master and master is the only branch?

Yes.

Do you enforce meaningful commit messages?

Euhm, no.

Summary, head is broken regularly, causing multiple team members to wait until head is fixed.

Tracing back fixes for bugs or spec changes and change requests is not really easy when the commit messages say “fixed a bug”, “changed the code” and “don’t remember what my local changes are so I just committed with this message since the tool doesn’t allow me to check in an empty commit message.”

Conclusion

Not a lot of fabs in Europe, which is a costly strategic mistake.

Lots of bright people work for other countries to get them further instead of getting progress in Europe, IMEC, Deepmind, Intel, Apple, …

The salary is meager and taxes are high.

Plus more than anywhere else, the sector adheres to outdated and inflexible practices.

I am not someone who sugar coats it.

I believe in waking up people.

Even if they don’t listen.

The AI battle between China and the US will make Europe dependent on those countries without having leverage.

That will cost the future generations dearly.

I can only be true to myself if in a decade I can read back my warnings and know that I did the best I could to make the blind see what is coming.

It ain’t pretty I’m afraid.

My heart bleeds when I see the state of the semiconductor industry in Europe.

My Quora space : HW accelerators eating AI

Published inASICPOST