BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government will commit millions of euros in funding to electronics research and development as part of a wider effort to reduce reliance on imports of equipment used in its critical infrastructure, it said on Tuesday.
Berlin has resisted U.S. calls to exclude Chinese vendor Huawei from its telecoms networks on national security grounds, but the ensuing debate has raised awareness that its technology shortcomings pose a threat in their own right.
“It’s important for us to maintain our international competitiveness and our sovereignty in these key technologies,” Research Minister Anja Karliczek said, highlighting fields such as healthcare, smart factories and self-driving cars.
Germany’s three telecoms operators all use Huawei equipment in their existing networks and, as they upgrade them to high-speed 5G technology, new gear sourced from abroad is being subjected to tougher scrutiny and certification.
Looking ahead to 6G, the next iteration of the mobile communications technology, Karliczek said it would be vital to develop and source network equipment locally.
Karliczek announced a first award of 25 million euros ($28 million) in funding from her ministry’s “Technology You Can Trust” initiative, for one project working on processors for edge computing and two on artificial intelligence.
She issued a call for applications for a second tranche of 20 million euros. Overall, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has earmarked 400 million euros to back research and development in microelectronics.
Although the sums pale in comparison with the amount China and the United States are ploughing into electronics R&D, the programme symbolises Germany’s preference for pragmatic problem solving over political posturing in the trade arena.
“We need the entire value chain - from chip design through to semiconductor production,” said Gunther Kegel, president of Germany’s VDE electronics industry group.
Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Madeline Chambers, Kirsten Donovan