Faced with unpredictable market conditions, the European RF and microwave industry must play to its strengths, stay focused and keep in the (Euro) zone. This Report considers the support the industry is getting and the tactics it is employing to remain competitive and lead the way in technological innovation.

It has always been a competitive world with the survival of the fittest being the law of the jungle. And there is no doubt that it has been a jungle out there in recent years. In Europe, the economic slowdown has meant that the realities of depressed markets, currencies under pressure and a tougher credit environment have hit hard. Supersized companies, institutions and economies have been forced to slim down and shed a few pounds (or Euros). Difficult decisions have had to be made in order to negotiate the organisational, structural and financial hurdles necessary to remain competitive.

The slowdown is global and all regions and individual nations are approaching the problem from their own perspective. Europe in particular has its own issues – it is a conglomeration of individual countries, each with their own priorities, trading partners, research and educational systems and indigenous industry. Importantly too, it is a global exporter of products and expertise, and a marketplace for goods and services.

It is also, predominantly, a European Union and that unity has the capacity, if channelled effectively, to break down trade barriers, establish mechanisms to achieve realistic and common goals and build a framework for development and innovation. As will be outlined in the European Initiatives section of this Special Report, comprehensive mechanisms have been put in place to support, encourage, facilitate and fund development.

The realisation in Europe and beyond is that there will be no solution to the ‘crisis’ without growth and that investments in education, research and technological development focused on addressing practical/commercial requirements increase the chances to minimise the impact of the slowdown while building a platform from which to bounce back quickly when recovery deigns to make an appearance.

Like all sectors, the European RF and microwave industry must invest. As well as the preoccupation with smartphones, there must also be ‘smart’ thinking, as spending time and money makes no sense unless it is spent wisely. At any time, but especially in times of austerity, results must be achieved and a return on investment accrued. To do so our industry needs to take advantage of key initiatives that have been instigated at the EU and national level, to increase both the efficiency and the economic impact of research and innovation.

The RF and microwave industry has always been one of innovation; research and development are the best tools at our disposal to renew and strengthen business. Teamwork, at all levels, is particularly important as good partnerships have the potential to attract the best talents, with different skills and experience, to tackle the prevailing challenges.

The challenges that our industry is faced with also offer opportunities. For instance, the smartphone/tablet generation’s voracious appetite for data, social media, entertainment on the move, etc., caught many operators in Europe by surprise, resulting in ‘network capacity crunch’ and the call for more spectrum (read our cover feature in this issue for more on that subject, page 24). The result has been the World Radio Congress ruling that the 700 MHz band be a cellular allocation throughout Europe. The RF and microwave industry is in a position to find innovative ways to address the problem.

Although core competencies, strengths and experience have to be maintained and built-on, the world is changing, offering the prospect of addressing new sectors such as health or getting on the environmental bandwagon with green radios and green communications.

Developments continue in the semiconductor/IC sector with greater integration being a major focus, together with the development of metamaterials. The expansion in the development in GaN has seen the first commercial GaN products introduced and mobile handsets with RF MEMS reconfiguration capability are set to enter the market.

Defence and security have long been fertile areas of development in Europe. Over recent years, the landscape has changed with traditionally robust defence budgets directly in the firing line when austerity measures are taken. Now, the focus is on improving the cost/performance ratio of components, subsystems and systems and finding different applications to exploit, such as in the security, space and civil sectors.

There is no doubt that Europe has individual companies, conglomerates, research institutes and academic institutions with the expertise, experience and enthusiasm to develop new products and processes and expand horizons. However, they can be helped by being able to easily partner, share and discuss technological innovation and have access to funding. Following is an overview of the initiatives that the EU has put in place over recent years, highlighting the new and long term programmes.

European Initiatives

In 2010, when the extent and severity of the impact of the economic and industrial downturn was being fully realised and impacting across the globe, the Europe 2020 Strategy was launched. Its aim is to help overcome the slowdown, stimulate growth and create more and better jobs in the EU.

The strategy identifies the drivers of EU growth for the decade, focusing on new solutions and structural reforms. Based on the principles of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Europe 2020 sets out five key targets in the areas of research and innovation, education, employment, poverty reduction and climate/energy.

Although all are relevant, research and innovation and education are areas where the European RF and microwave industry can both benefit and contribute. As this annual European Special Report has highlighted in previous years, a key driver to collaboration, development and innovation is the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) worth €55 billion overall and with a mandate to run from 2007 to 2013.

By removing obstacles to the free flow of scientific/engineering knowledge, data and researchers, in Europe, FP7 encourages, supports and funds networking between research centres, commercial enterprises, universities and regional authorities. Its aim is to stimulate knowledge transfer from academia to business and take research through to commercialisation. Having achieved tangible breakthroughs in research and product development with positive consequences for our industry, those goals have been achieved to some degree.

On 9 July 2012, the European Commission announced the final and largest set of calls for proposals for research under FP7. In total, €8.1 billion – the lion’s share of the EU’s proposed €10.8 billion research budget for 2013 – will support projects and ideas aimed at boosting Europe’s competitiveness.

According to the European Commission, EU research funding generates considerable added value, with €1 of EU Framework Programme funding leading to an increase in industry added value of between €7 and €14. The expected long-term macro-economic impact of the current Seventh Framework Programme amounts to 900,000 jobs, of which 300,000 in research, and an extra 0.96 percent of GDP.

In its final call, FP7 continues to support sectors where the RF and microwave industry contributes. For instance, approximately €1.5 billion has been earmarked to support information and communication technologies-related projects in 2013. The aim is to stimulate product, service and process creativity and innovation through ICT use to benefit Europe’s industry, businesses, governments and citizens.

By early 2013, two Future Emerging Technologies (FET) flagship initiatives, which go beyond traditional ICT research and link up with specialists in other fields, will be selected. Funding will also support the European Cloud Partnership (ECP) being launched later in 2012. The ECP is designed to solve the challenges caused by fragmented markets and legislation for cloud computing, so that providers can start building trustworthy clouds, fit for Europe.

Smart Systems, which are increasingly impacting on daily life in the form of communications (smart- phones), aeronautics, automotive, medical applications, etc., are also being addressed. In particular, EURIPIDES is the EUREKA R&D programme dedicated to Smart Systems, packaging and systems integration. Led by industry, it motivates and supports innovative projects aimed at the development of new products and services. These projects involve large companies and a growing number of SMEs and academia, from at least two EUREKA countries.

As European Microwave Week 2012 demonstrates, defence, security and space are significant drivers in our industry at present. And, by the end of the FP7 in 2013, the EC will have financed over 250 security research projects, with more than 1500 participants, from 45 countries. Significantly too, with over 21 percent participation by SMEs, the security programme greatly exceeds the target for SME participation in the whole of FP7.

Maintaining a competitive space industry is paramount for Europe and providing appropriate infrastructure and services requires sustained research into new technologies and their transferral to commercial exploitation. The Space Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme aims to support the European Space Policy and focuses on applications such as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and broader fields such as space technologies, space science and space transportation.

As an illustration of current programmes, specific examples of FP7 projects, which have been announced in the last 12 months that address the RF and microwave, semiconductor/IC and radar sectors of our industry, are highlighted in Sector Overviews& Initiatives later in this report.

Small and medium-sized enterprises play a significant role in the RF and microwave industry and can actively benefit from a package worth up to €1.2 billion outlined in the 2012 FP7 call. This includes financing for SMEs to around €970 million out of the €4.8 billion call budget for the Cooperation Programme, which covers ten thematic research priorities. Ring-fenced budgets for SMEs, in some calls covering up to 75 percent of available funding, will exist in nine of the ten themes. There will be €250 million for the dedicated research for the benefit of SMEs Programme, including demonstration actions for FP7 research results.

By the completion of FP7 it is estimated that around 4000 SMEs will have benefited from this dedicated programme that aims to strengthen the innovation capacity of SMEs and help them acquire technological know-how for the development of new products and markets. Approximately 20,000 SMEs are expected to have benefitted from FP7 before the end of the Programme.

Also aimed at SMEs is the Eurostars Programme co-funded by the European Communities and 33
EUREKA member countries. It aims to stimulate SMEs to lead international collaborative research and innovation projects by easing access to support and funding. Taking a bottom-up approach, the programme is dedicated to the needs of SMEs, and specifically targets the development of new products, processes and services and the access to transnational and international markets. With the Seventh Framework Programme having been perceived to be a success and the final FP7 call for 2013 having been announced, future initiatives will come under close scrutiny.

Horizon 2020 is the proposed €80 billion investment programme for research and innovation for 2014 through 2020. It will bring together all European-level support for research and innovation under one umbrella to aid progress from idea to market, through streamlined funding, simpler programme architecture and rules for participation.

The programme’s architecture is composed of three distinct priorities, or pillars. One of particular interest, with an investment of almost €18 billion, aims to boost industrial leadership, with actions to make Europe a more attractive place for businesses to invest in R&D and innovation. €13.7 billion will be targeted at supporting key enabling and industrial technologies that underpin innovation across different industries and sectors. These include nanotechnologies, advanced materials, ICT, advanced manufacturing processes, space and biotechnology.  Its structure will enable it to support research and innovation from the laboratory to exploitation including testing, prototyping and early demonstration; allied to new measures for risk and equity funding of innovative companies.

Horizon 2020 has the capability of offering a structure that will help foster collaboration between R&D and industry. The next section of this report elaborates on how this relationship is developing and the technological issues it is addressing and identifies specific areas of activity and growth.

Sector Overviews & Initiatives

The chairmen of the three 2012 European Microwave Week conferences – the European Microwave Conference (EuMC), the European Microwave Integrated Circuits (EuMIC) Conference and the European Radar Conference (EuRAD) – offer insight into key areas of development and identify future trends. To illustrate specific European activity in these sectors, examples of recent FP7 initiatives are highlighted.

RF and Microwaves

Sector Overview by Bart Nauwelaers, EuMC 2012 Conference Chair

With European Microwave Week, and especially the European Microwave Conference imminent, it is a good time to lean back and think about the field of microwaves, millimetre-waves and beyond. For instance, in what environment is our community developing its activities? Currently we are operating in a world that is warming up, where people want to live longer and desire consumer goods that are cheaper and have been produced in an environmentally friendly way. Does this have anything to do with our research and development? The answer is: yes, indeed.

To get an interesting and indicative insight into European microwave research, consider some of the subjects that the European Commission has put forward and published in its calls for the current FP7. In FP7, you will find titles such as Smart Cities and Communities, Factories of the Future, ICT for Green Cars, Future Internet, Energy Efficient Buildings, Brain Research, Smart Factories… All these subjects reflect the societal concerns evident at present and several of them lend themselves to microwave and millimetre-wave investigations and applications.

The European Commission is spending roughly €10 billion per year on FP7. This is subdivided into themes, of which Information and Communication Technologies takes roughly one third. Health accounts for one fifth, while Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and Production Technologies of the order of one tenth of the budget. Space and Security together are also worth one tenth and Energy a bit less. It is in relation to these themes that microwaves and millimetre-waves must find their research resources but always as a supporting technology.

European funding correlates very well with what is going on in our research community. We continue to work to develop radios and are aiming for all-wireless communications, MMICs are prominent with silicon becoming more significant, together with frequencies ranging from microwave to millimetre-wave. Health and biological subjects are coming to the fore: we are paying much more attention to positive applications with sensors and curative applications. Green radios and green communication is a driver for (reduced) power applications: this is our contribution to the energy theme. And we are talking again about power transmission with microwave beams and the good old rectennas.

Space and security are the two themes in which our field of activity has the greatest prominence, while metamaterials may well be seen as a microwave answer to the nanomaterial question. The trend towards ever higher frequencies however, is as a law unto itself: it seems to be independent of anything else. The terahertz range is also taking on increased significance.

With regards to how we tend to work, research is mostly done in relatively small teams, in universities, research centres and companies. Even larger teams are usually not composed of more than tens of staff members. In fact, some of the most important recent innovations have emanated from teams of less than ten – think of the nonlinear network analyser.

So microwaves and millimetre-wave engineering are subjects with very dedicated, skillful and innovative people, but they are dispersed over many organisations and thus have difficulty to speak with one voice. Conversely, space and security are the two truly microwave related themes in the European Framework Programmes that have visibility. So, with ESA-ESTEC’s backing it is no coincidence that the theme of EuMW is Space for Microwaves, and that the Defence, Security and Space Forum is a full-day focused event.

FP7 Projects

With just under €1.85 million of EU funding, the multi-Reconfigurable Antenna SoluTions based on REflectarray technOlogy (RASTREO) project will investigate the development of multi-reconfigurable antennas, which has numerous potential applications including satellite communication and cognitive radio. The project proposes, for the first time, an efficient solution to large directive antennas able to simultaneously achieve spatial, frequential and polarization dynamic-reconfiguration. Microfabrication technologies for RF reconfiguration will be employed to implement the proposed concepts, in order to achieve higher frequency operation, enhanced performance, integration and low power consumption.

As its title suggests, the results of the Active and Passive MIcrowaves for Security and Subsurface imaging (AMISS) project will be two-fold – ground penetrating radar for subsurface sensing and critical infrastructure diagnostics and passive and active microwave imaging systems for security applications. The proposal is for two lines of research. The first is concerned with the development, characterization and performance evaluation of new systems, sensors and configurations able to mitigate the clutter, and increase information content and redundancy, for both passive and active microwave imaging, while the second considers the development, implementation and performance evaluation of processing tools.

ICs & Semiconductors

Sector Overview by Frank van Vliet, EuMIC 2012 Chair (In Collaboration with John Long, Vice-Chair and Arttu Luukanen, TPC chair)

The 7th European Microwave Integrated Circuits Conference captures a snapshot of a dynamic field of research and industrial exploitation in integrated circuits covering frequencies from microwaves to the submillimetre-wave region. The underlying trends for microwave ICs seen this year include: higher levels of system integration, adaptivity, improved RF performance and especially cost. Scaling of CMOS has pushed the technology into the mm-wave region, whilst simultaneously enabling integration of an RF system from antenna through to A/D conversion and digital peripheral communications blocks onto a single chip. The high integration level, including built-in-test capability, is ushering in an era of highly adaptive radio systems at a fraction of the cost of previous generations.

For compound semiconductor technologies, heterogenous integration of III-V technologies on silicon is opening another avenue for the realization of high-performance systems. This, coupled together with exciting new developments in passive device integration, is driving further reductions in the size and cost of higher performance systems.

In the millimetre-wave region, communication applications at 60 and 80 GHz together with the broader commercialization of 77 GHz automotive radar are motivating low-cost and adaptive radio systems. These applications have also provided a consistent pull for improvements in broadband power amplifiers. The initial commercial product implementations in GaN technologies are demonstrating excellent performance in terms of efficiency, output power, bandwidth and linearity, and at costs competitive with more mature technologies.

Long associated with the desire for greater agility, efficiency and integration, RF MEMS integrated on-chip are finding application in reconfigurable RF and mm-wave ICs. Mobile handsets with RF MEMS reconfiguration capability are vying to enter the market in the near future.

Rapid development is also seen at sub-millimetre-wave frequencies, primarily driven by imaging applications. Active devices are now pushing the 1 THz mark, and the traditional paradigm of high cost is being erased by sub-millimetre-wave devices and circuits implemented in SiGe
BiCMOS technologies. Furthermore, the barrier to entry associated with the availability of test systems is being alleviated by the introduction of 1 THz VNAs. Packaging of THz circuits is another challenge that is addressed by increasing levels of on-chip integration and the development of micromachined waveguide blocks, as we are now seeing in III-V technologies, for example.

Last but not least, the advances in RFICs pay homage to better theoretical understanding as well as to the ever cheaper and easier-to-use simulation and test capabilities available. The diversification of applications and mobile LTE, together with broader spectrum coverage of adaptive radio systems, ensure that microwave ICs face an exciting future.

FP7 Projects

The Nanostructured materials and RF MEMS RFIC/MMIC technologies for highly adaptive and reliable RF systems (NANOTEC) project has attracted total funding of nearly €10 million. Its aim is to generate innovative approaches towards novel RF/mm-wave systems with increased functionality and potentially lower cost addressing future needs of European industry.

NANOTEC will develop four demonstrators: 10 to 24 GHz reflect arrays for aerospace, 71 to 86 GHz frequency-agile LNA/PA for E-Band point to point communication, 94 GHz high-sensitivity front-ends for passive imaging and 140 GHz radar front-ends for active imaging – with advanced functionalities based on enabling technologies and via monolithic integration of high-performance RF MEMS switches in GaN/GaAs/SiGe IC foundry processes. The project will aim to improve reliability of RF MEMS by using nanostructured materials and demonstrate added-value by employing the proposed GaN/GaAs/SiGe MEMS-ICs for 10 to 140 GHz applications. The emergence of European sources (SiGe/GaAs/GaN MEMS-IC foundries) will play a key role towards increasing the availability of RF MEMS technology and related products.

Other FP7 projects of note include the GaN Quantum Devices for T-Ray Sources (TERAGAN) project, which will receive around €1.6 million of EU funding, while the LAyer Transfer for Integration of Compound sEmiconductors (LATICE) project will benefit from funding of just over €1.9 million.


Sector Overview by Willem Hol, EuRAD 2012 Chair (In Collaboration with Albert Huizing, Vice-Chair and Francois Le Chevalier, TPC-Chair)

The ninth European radar conference will offer an academic/industry perspective of the rapidly changing landscape of radar research and development. These changes are not only driven by the advances in microwave and electronics technology but also by changing user requirements. Traditional radar applications such as defence continue to demand improvements in radar performance to counter the danger of diverse threats such as improvised explosive devices, small slow unmanned aerial vehicles, and long range ballistic missiles. At the same time, budgets for the procurement and maintenance of military radar systems are dwindling and this drives the need for an improved cost/performance ratio of military radar systems as well as the search for new radar applications in the security, space and civil domain.

Active phased array radars with multifunction and multimission capabilities are rapidly becoming operational because of their greater flexibility when compared with traditional single function/single mission radar systems. To optimise the performance of a multifunction radar for a specific mission, new waveforms, scheduling techniques and processing algorithms need to be developed. MIMO radars that simultaneously transmit and receive orthogonal waveforms provide extra degrees of freedom for the radar designer to optimise the cost/performance ratio of radars.

The developments in semiconductor and digital processing technology enable new radar architectures and algorithms that previously were not viable. Phased array radars with digitization on receive at the element level and digital beamforming not only support adaptive techniques for suppression of jamming and interference signals, but also enable the use of micro-Doppler features to discriminate targets of interest, and man-made objects, from the clutter background.

A recent challenge for radar systems to address is the increased use of the electromagnetic spectrum by mobile communications systems which limits the spectrum that is available for active radar systems. Potential solutions to this challenge are distributed radars that employ narrowband waveforms to detect and track targets and passive radar systems that rely on transmitters of opportunity such as analogue and digital radio and television emitters, base stations and hot spots for mobile communications.

Compressive sensing is a new paradigm in data acquisition and signal processing that allows sparse signals to be sampled at a much lower frequency than the Nyquist rate. In radar systems that use wide bandwidths and/or many receiver channels for automatic target recognition, compressive sensing can provide a significant reduction in acquisition time, pulse repetition rate, or hardware.

The advances of radar technology in new application domains provide a fertile breeding ground for innovative ideas that will challenge conventional solutions in traditional radar applications such as defence, and will invigorate the radar community well into its second century.

FP7 Projects

The Advanced Radar Tracking and Classification for Enhanced Road Safety (ARTRAC) project aims to develop an active safety system to protect vulnerable road users (VRU) from vehicles in motion that is economically viable in the volume vehicle market. The environmental sensing is to be based on a single automotive 24 GHz narrowband radar sensor, which offers the potential to overcome the hitherto price barrier that has prevented VRU protection systems from entering widespread use.

To meet the challenging technical requirements for extremely short measurement time, reliable target detection, ego motion and road condition estimation that have to be met, a new transmit/receive antenna and multi-channel receiver will be developed. Existing microwave technology in the 24 GHz band will be utilised as much as possible to facilitate low-cost mass production applications.

Having attracted around €1.12 million of EU funding, the intention of the International automotive 79 GHz frequency harmonization initiative and worldwide operating vehicular radar frequency standardization platform is to establish and speed up the worldwide harmonized frequency allocation for automotive radar systems in the 77 GHz to 81 GHz (79 GHz) frequency range. This 79 GHz international frequency harmonization and standardization platform will bring all the interested parties together and promote and accelerate the rulemaking process for 79 GHz on an international level.


This annual report has put the spotlight on the European RF and microwave industry, both as an individual entity and in the context of how it functions within, is supported by, and contributes to the wider European community.

It is clear that the European Union is striving to live up to its title and provide a union that smoothes, facilitates and augments the transition from research and development to implementation and commercialisation. Mechanisms have been established that remove barriers, provide funding and nurture partnerships. FP7 in particular has proved a focus and a catalyst for innovative collaborations and targeted research with applications in the real world. Funding has been simplified and forthcoming, and it can only be hoped that Horizon 2020 can build on FP7’s achievements in the future.

This report has accentuated the positives, but we are far from over the finishing line and we cannot underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. Europe still has to face up to the demons of economic instability and political division if it is to successfully beat the recession. Stimulating growth through innovation and endeavour is the baton that we cling on to and need to pass to the next generation but realistically, it will be a marathon, not a sprint.