European Commission recommends risk assessment on advanced semiconductor and AI before the end of 2023

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Following the publication of a Joint Communication on a European Economic Security Strategy by the European Commission in June, calling for the bloc to thoroughly assess economy risks in four categories related to supply chain resilience, technology security/leakage, economic coercion and critical infrastructure security, on October 3 the European Commission further adopted a recommendation on critical technology areas for the EU's economic security, zooming on the issue of technology leakage.

In the document, the Commission puts forward a list of 10 critical technology areas based on their potentials to enable significant performance and sector changes and advance military capabilities. Among them, advanced semiconductors, AI, quantum technologies and biotechnologies are especially highlighted as the four areas highly likely to present "the most sensitive and immediate risks related to technology security and technology leakage," and EU member states are recommended by the Commission to conduct initial risk assessments of these four named areas by the end of 2023. Following the initial collective risk assessments, according to the European Commission, further initiatives in this direction may be presented by Spring 2024. Whether or not EU member states can put up an united front, however, remains the biggest question mark.

As indicated by the European Commission, "advanced semiconductors" entail high frequency chips, photonics and semiconductor manufacturing equipment at very advanced nodes. AI technologies entail High Performance Computing (HPC), cloud and edge computing, data analytic technologies, and computer vision, language processing, objection recognition. When it comes to quantum technologies, quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum communications, and quantum sensing/radar are included.

To guide the collective risk assessment process, the European Commission recommends taking into account various dimensions, including the value chain of technologies and the evolution of risks, in addition to present and future chokepoints. It also calls for "a mapping of the EU's relative position in each technology, including key players and elements of the EU's comparative lead." Ultimately, in line with the European Economic Security Strategy, the EU seeks to review its foreign direct investment screening regulation and fully implement the bloc's export control regulation on dual-use technologies, among other measures.

However, as an EU diplomat told the Financial Times, performing a credible risk assesssment for an entire technology is difficult, and the timeline set by the Commission is too ambitious to do a detailed analysis. In addition, exports control measures still fall within the domain of EU member states, which have different national security strategies.