After an uncertain few years, the stars on the European flag may be aligning to prophesy recovery and growth. While not claiming any clairvoyant insight, this report examines the specific actions that the RF and microwave industry is taking to affect a more certain and prosperous future.
One of the greatest threats to economies, markets, industrial development and employment is uncertainty. You cannot taste it, see it or hear it, but its effects can be felt by nations, industries, institutions and individuals. It can impact development and growth and shape society. For nearly a decade now, triggered by the financial crisis in 2008 and aided and abetted by political uncertainty—epitomised by Brexit and the economic fragility of the Eurozone—uncertainty has shackled Europe in recent years.
However, there is optimism that, Houdini-like, Europe is systematically removing the shackles and regaining the strength and flexibility to invest, innovate and compete on the world stage. And, unlike the great escapologist’s feats, this premise does not appear to be an illusion, as there is evidence that, thanks to determined action, the European Union (EU) economy is now back on a more stable footing, with unemployment falling and growth expected.
Indeed, the rhetoric from the European hierarchy is unflinching and bold in its positivity, as it set out its ambitions and objectives in black and white, or at least the latter, with the publication in March of the “White Paper on the Future of Europe—Reflections and Scenarios for the EU27 by 2025,” in which the President of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker, wrote, “This white paper is the European Commission’s contribution to this new chapter of the European project. We want to launch a process in which Europe determines its own path. We want to map out the challenges and opportunities ahead of us and present how we can collectively choose to respond.”
As the white paper points out, Europe is home to the world’s largest single market and second most-used currency. Also, thanks in part to Horizon 2020, the world’s biggest multinational research programme, Europe is at the cutting edge of innovation.
Indeed, the latest available statistics on the European Union’s investment in research and innovation that appeared in “The 2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard,” published in December 2016 by the EC, show that EU companies invested €188.3 billion in research and development in the fiscal year 2015/2016. This constitutes an annual increase of 7.5 percent, which puts EU companies ahead of the global (6.6 percent) and U.S. (5.9 percent) trends.
Thirty EU companies are among the world’s top 100 R&D investors. Significant for the RF and microwave sector, these investors are especially active in the fields of automotive, information and communications technology (ICT) and aerospace and defence. The top investors are based in Germany (€69.8 billion), France (€28.5 billion), the U.K. (€28.2 billion) and the Netherlands (€14.1 billion).
According to the WSTS Semiconductor Market Forecast Spring 2017, the worldwide semiconductor market is forecast to be $378 billion in 2017, an increase of 11.5 percent from 2016. WSTS expects the world semiconductor market to grow in 2017 and 2018 to $378 billion and $388 billion, respectively. For 2017, this represents growth of 11.5 percent, which is the largest growth year since 2010. In 2017, all geographical regions are expected to grow.
For 2018, all major product categories and regions are forecast to grow with the overall market up 2.7 percent and sensors contributing the highest growth. Europe is expected to show the greatest growth with a 3.2 percent increase in 2018. This is supported by the latest figures from the European Semiconductor Industry Association, which reported that May was the third consecutive month of growth in Europe, with sales reaching $3.1 billion. With a growth rate of 3.9 percent during April, Europe outperformed all the other regions worldwide in that month, too.
Although certain sectors are growing, especially in high technology fields, there is a general acceptance overall that Europe’s place in the world is shrinking, as other parts of the globe grow. In 1900, Europe accounted for around 25 percent of global population; by 2060, that figure will be less than 5 percent, and no single European Member State will have more than 1 percent of the world population. Europe’s relative economic power is also forecast to wane, accounting for much less than 20 percent of the world’s GDP in 2030, down from around 22 percent today.
That said, rather than bemoaning the situation and clasping its head in its hands or, even worse, burying it in the sand, the EC has recognised the need to address and combat the rapidly rising influence of emerging economies and the importance of Europe speaking with one voice and acting with the collective weight of its individual parts.
HORIZON 2020 WORK PROGRAMMES
As has been highlighted in this annual report in previous years, a key driver for research and innovation in Europe is Horizon 2020, which has built on the Framework Programmes (the last being FP7) and which it superseded. Funding opportunities under Horizon 2020 are set out in multiannual work programmes that cover the large majority of support available. These are prepared by the EC within the framework provided by the Horizon 2020 legislation.
The Commission Work Programme for 2017 focused specifically on the delivery of the 10 priorities outlined in the Political Guidelines to address the biggest challenges which Europe faces. For the RF and microwave industry, key initiatives are the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Defence Action Plan and the EU Global Strategy. Another key, broader objective is to provide a new boost for jobs, growth and investment, particularly a youth initiative and the formulation of a financial framework beyond 2020.
Looking forward, in August 2017, the European Research Council (ERC) announced its 2018 grant competitions, with a total budget of around €1.86 billion, most of which is earmarked for early- to mid-career researchers. The work programme includes all the well-known and established ERC funding schemes: starting, consolidator and advanced grants, as well as proof-of-concept grants for ERC grantees wishing to explore the innovation potential of their research results.
Whether it is via such work programmes, collaborative work through academic institutions or the commercial development of technology, the RF and microwave industry is in a prime position to contribute to and benefit from cutting-edge technology that will shape the world we live in. In this report it would be impossible to cover all fields of application where our industry is currently or has the potential to deliver. So, I will highlight three sectors where European initiatives and activity is of particular significance and importance.
The most obvious sector to highlight is 5G, which is a specific area where Europe is pushing the pace and endeavouring to take the lead, both technologically and commercially. 5G will be a critical factor in formulating a “digital society,” and Europe has demonstrated its determination to lead the global development of this vital technology. Unsurprisingly, the intentions are not entirely altruistic, as 5G has the potential to reward its developers, with all regions/countries recognising the benefits of the successful development and adoption of this technology.
The EU has made 5G development a priority. Forward thinking saw the formation of the EU 5G Public-Private Partnership (5G-PPP) in 2013, which has put Europe to the forefront of the current research phase. The research results are now feeding the global standardisation process and being used to prepare the first large-scale trials and demonstrators in Europe, in cooperation with several key sectors.
The follow-on stage from the 5G-PPP saw the launch of the 5G Action Plan in September 2016, which aims to boost EU efforts for the deployment of 5G infrastructure and services across the Digital Single Market by 2020. It is a strategic initiative that concerns all stakeholders—private and public, small and large, in all member states—to meet the challenge of making 5G a reality for all citizens and businesses by the end of this decade.
To achieve those goals, the EC proposes key measures, including
- aligning roadmaps and priorities for a coordinated 5G deployment across all EU member states,
- targeting early network introduction by 2018 and moving toward commercial large-scale introduction by the end of 2020 at the latest,
- making provisional spectrum bands available for 5G ahead of the 2019 World Radio Communication Conference (WRC-19), to be complemented by additional bands as quickly as possible and working toward a recommended approach for the authorisation of the specific 5G spectrum bands above 6 GHz,
- promoting early deployment in major urban areas and along major transport paths,
- promoting pan-European, multi-stakeholder trials as catalysts to turn technological innovation into full business solutions,
- facilitating the implementation of an industry-led venture fund in support of 5G-based innovation and
- uniting leading players in working toward the promotion of global standards.
In the regulatory framework, the 5G Action Plan is closely related to the new European Electronic Communications Code: they both aim to foster competitiveness in the digital single market. They support the deployment and take-up of 5G networks, notably the assignment and availability of radio spectrum, more favourable conditions for small cell deployment or sectorial issues preventing the deployment of particular services, investment incentives and favourable framework conditions.
In the U.K., the government, with an alliance of universities and commercial partners, is pushing forward. In its Autumn Statement 2016, the government announced its intention to invest in a nationally coordinated programme of 5G Testbeds & Trials as part of a £1 billion package of announcements made to boost the U.K.’s digital infrastructure. Under this initiative, a world-class 5G technology test network will aim to put the U.K. at the forefront of the next wave of mobile technology—potentially adding up to £173 billion to the country’s economy by 2030.
For the first part of this four-year programme of investment and collaboration, experts from leading 5G research institutions at the Universities of Surrey and Bristol and King’s College London have been awarded £16 million to develop the cutting-edge 5G test network, which will see academic expertise and commercial leadership brought together to trial the technology and make sure people and businesses can enjoy the benefits sooner. The universities will work together to create three small-scale mobile networks, which together will form the test network. Each network will have a number of the elements expected in a commercial 5G network, including mobile signal receivers and transmitters and the technology to handle 5G signals, to support trials of its many potential uses.
This investment also aims to deliver a 5G end-to-end trial in early 2018, with the aim of testing the capability of 5G to make an application or service work in a real-world environment. The project will combine the strengths of Surrey, Bristol and King’s, which are internationally renowned for their work on 5G and specialise in different aspects of the technology.
The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) will lead the project and develop 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualised mobile core network at 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC).
Bristol University will deploy 5G capability in the extensive smart city and smart campus test beds in the city, targeting full 5G and fibre infrastructure convergence. Bristol will also contribute to the key software-defined network technologies for end-to-end 5G service delivery. Public demonstrators will be the focus of delivery, targeting media, gaming and transport applications. As an illustration of Bristol University’s research, the cover story for this issue of Microwave Journal, outlines the university’s current work to investigate and develop massive MIMO to increase the capacity possible within the sub-6 GHz bands.
King’s College London is driving the vision for ultra-low latency 5G tactile internet developments, with “Internet of Skills” applications. Through its 5G Tactile Internet Lab, King’s is also pioneering several important 5G co-design approaches with various industries, including smart cities, smart transport, performing arts and health.
Similarly, in Finland, the 5G Test Network Finland (5GTNF) test environment, which is a joint venture between industry, academia and the Finnish government, is promoting research and technology development by interconnecting 5G test networks belonging to the 5thGear Programme funded by Tekes. The 5GTN is a scalable test environment enabling future business model piloting and service development in real-life use cases that provide a platform for testing and developing the 5G system’s technology components.
Significant, too, is the first field trial of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technology in the U.K. and Europe, which went live in central London on July 2017 via collaboration between Samsung and the infrastructure company Arqiva. The primary aim of the four month trial is to demonstrate the stability of the FWA service and its potential as a fast-to-market and cost-effective alternative to fibre for connectivity to homes and businesses. Powered by Samsung’s 5G network solution and customer premises equipment (CPE) and using Arqiva’s 28 GHz millimetre wave spectrum, the 5G FWA system consists of a radio access unit that wirelessly links to an easily installable CPE, which implements intelligent beamforming technology and accesses millimetre wave spectrum to provide high bandwidth connectivity.
In a wider context, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European space industry have joined forces to develop and demonstrate the added value that satellites bring in the context of 5G. As part of the ESA Satellite for 5G, set for 2018–2020 and beyond, ESA and the European space industry will work together on
- 5G service trials, including satellite capabilities, with a focus on selected sectors targeted by 5G,
- verticals such as transport, media, entertainment and public safety,
- transversal activities in the areas of applications development, standardisation, resource management, interoperability demonstration campaigns and supporting technologies and
- outreach activities.
The next step will be to consolidate the defining elements of the trial projects and transversal actions by the end of 2017.
The European automotive industry is strong, with a history of innovation and development that continues with major initiatives being undertaken. For instance, at the end of 2016, the EC adopted a European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS). Through cooperative, connected and automated mobility, the objective of the strategy is to facilitate the deployment of vehicles that can talk to one another and to the infrastructure on EU roads as of 2019.
The strategy foresees the adoption of the appropriate legal framework at the EU level by 2018, to ensure legal certainty for public and private investors. It also addresses the availability of EU funding for research and development projects and international cooperation on all aspects related to cooperative, connected and automated vehicles.
It also involves continuous coordination, in a learning-by-doing approach, with the C-Roads Platform, which gathers real-life deployment projects in member states. With the help of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), projects in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. have received funding.
Under Horizon 2020, research into ITS has focused on the integration of transport modes and the links with automation. A dedicated call for project proposals on automated road transport was launched in 2016. In the context of the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda, the commission is developing a roadmap on connected and automated transport to steer and coordinate future research and investigation activities in Europe. This work is complemented by large-scale deployment projects to develop cooperative systems on the Trans-European Transport network in 13 countries, making use of EU funding programmes such as the CEF.
Earlier this year, the CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium and the C-Roads Platform signed a memorandum of understanding for enabling close cooperation between the automotive industry, road authorities and road operators for preparing the deployment of initial C-ITS services across Europe by 2019. Both partners support the recommendation developed by the EC’s C-ITS Deployment Platform to utilise short-range communication in the 5.9 GHz frequency band. In accordance with the European C-ITS, the hybrid communication approach builds on combining short-range ITS-G5 and wide area cellular and broadcast communication under a complementary principle.
For the commercial market, automotive radars are growing in importance and volume of manufacture, and Europe is at the forefront of development and implementation of 24 and 77 GHz radar chips for cars. Of course, Germany is a leading nation with RF and microwave technology playing a vital role in the industry’s advancement. As would be expected, automotive technology development will be demonstrated to a greater extent than ever at EuMW 2017 in Nuremberg in October, where the focus is on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on its way to highly automated driving (HAD) in the future, with four workshops and three sessions within the European Radar (EuRAD) conference dealing with the subject. There will also be a special exhibition of technology demonstrators and test cars from Mercedes-Benz, Bosch, Hella and Valeo.
Industrialisation, IoT and M2M
As mentioned at the beginning of this report, the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker is clear on his vision for Europe. At the beginning of his mandate, he identified the reindustrialisation of Europe as one of his top priorities and confirmed the objective of increasing the share of industry in the European GDP to 20 percent by 2020.
The reality of this objective was brought into focus in February, when 125 associations representing the European manufacturing industry—including the European Automobile Manufactures’ Association (ACEA), the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), the European Carbon and Graphite Association (ECGA), the European Motor Industry Organisation (EMO), the European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESIA) and the Nanotech Industries Association (NIA)—published a joint declaration for an EU Industrial Strategy.
The declaration stated, “The time has come to raise the alarm about the considerable challenges that we are all facing. Between 2000 and 2014, the share of manufacturing in total EU output fell from 18.8 percent to 15.3 percent, while 3.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2008 and 2014. Meanwhile, countries around the world are putting industry at the very top of their political agendas. The Make in India strategy aims to ensure India is the next manufacturing destination and Made in China 2025 seeks to turn China into the leading manufacturing power. The recent U.S. shift toward America First will inevitably have a strong impact on their industrial policy.”
The declaration continued, “As we approach the preparation of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, it is vital for the EC to act and help the EU remain a competitive global industrial power playing in a fairer world market.”
To achieve the EC’s goals, in its declaration, European manufacturing industry called on the EC to
- reaffirm its commitment to reaching the target of 20 percent of GDP from industry, with an ambitious and realistic timeline,
- adopt an action plan to tackle the challenges that the industrial sectors are facing, in the framework of a communication that would include concrete steps and milestones and
- commit to implement the action plan in a timely manner and regularly report on progress.
Technologically, how can these objectives be achieved? One answer could be offered by microwave and millimetre wave systems in the form of M2M and IoT. To enable the necessary step-change in the number of internet connected devices would mean industry moving from the currently saturated IPv4 to IPv6. Such developments are required to achieve Industry 4.0, whereby RFID identified parts, subassemblies, manufacturing systems, robots and human operators work together.
Strictly speaking, as it was originally a German concept, it should be referred to as “Industrie 4.0” or the digital transformation of industry and the fourth industrial revolution. In whatever language, it is defined as the digital transformation of manufacturing, leveraging third platform technologies such as big data, analytics and innovation accelerators, including the Industrial IoT (IIoT). It requires the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), robotics, data and manufacturing processes to realize connected factories, smart decentralized manufacturing, self-optimizing systems and the digital supply chain in the information-driven, cyber-physical environment of the fourth industrial revolution. It is related to the industrial internet and, since 2016, the Industrial Internet Consortium and Industry 4.0 Platform have begun to work in collaboration.
In May 2017, Productive 4.0, the largest European research initiative in the field of Industry 4.0, was launched with the aim of digitizing and networking industry. Coordinated by Infineon Technologies, more than 100 partners from 19 European countries are involved in the project, including partners such as BMW, Bosch, Philips, Thales, NXP, STM, SAP, ABB, Volvo and Ericsson, along with leading institutes such as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the TU Dresden. It is scheduled to run until 30 April 2020.
The aim is to create a user platform across value chains and industries that promotes the digital networking of manufacturing companies, production machines and products. The participating partners will examine methods, concepts and technologies for service-oriented architecture, as well as for components and infrastructure in the IoT. Other aspects are standardization and process virtualization, namely simulating manufacturing processes to optimize real workflows. The platform can be used in the three interlocked process pillars for managing the supply chains, the product life cycle and digital production.
On paper, such initiatives could be viewed as theoretical aspirations with futuristic goals but, as Infineon demonstrates, that is not the case. The company began implementing Industry 4.0 live when it opened a new building complex in Villach, Austria for production, research and development in October 2015. The expansion, which is being driven forward through 2017 by investments and research expenditure totalling €290 million, focuses on designing the development and production environment according to the principles of Industry 4.0.
Thus, the company is helping to shape the global trend toward connected and knowledge-intensive production on two levels: on one hand, by developing and producing microchips and sensors that are used in smart factories; on the other, as a company that consistently uses Industry 4.0 technologies itself on a large scale.
There is no doubt that over the past decade, Europe has had to face up to the realities of an economic downturn, internal distractions and the challenge posed by emerging nations. However, Europe has always been able to adapt and transform challenges into opportunities, and it appears to be showing its mettle by taking positive action now. With 28 member states, the EU always has to overcome the perception of being a cumbersome machine fighting inertia to be able to drive forward. Athough we are talking about streamlining an SUV rather than a Ferrari, efforts have been made to deliver and mechanisms put in place to improve cooperation, eliminate red tape, provide incentives and fund projects.
For research and innovation, Horizon 2020, like the Framework Programmes before it, along with a myriad of guidelines, codes, action plans and strategies, is offering a platform for technological development and growth. Consequently, there is potential for commercial development, and this report has highlighted areas where the RF and microwave industry is at the forefront of development on the road to implementation. Such activity in areas such as 5G, automotive, IoT and M2M will not only benefit our industry, but society as a whole.
Of course, forecasting anything —be it gambling, markets or even the weather—is fraught with danger, but at a time when Europe’s role as a positive global force appears to be more important than ever, there does seem to be less uncertainty and tangible positivity regarding the future, with the RF and microwave industry having a significant and vital role to play.