The importance of the semiconductor sector and the challenges it faces

We present another episode of “In conversations with Barcelona & Partners”, an initiative where we give our partners the platform to share their insights on the current and future state of Barcelona’s technology and talent landscape. 

On this occasion, we had the opportunity of discussing the importance of the semiconductor sector and the challenges it faces with José Antonio Garrido, Deputy director of the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology and Nanoscience (ICN2). He also serves as the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Inbrain Neuroelectronics, a startup developing graphene-based neural systems. These systems use AI and data to identify brain activity biomarkers and create neural therapies. 


Jose Antonio emphasized the critical role of semiconductors across all industries. Semiconductors are essential crystalline materials, particularly silicon, known for their unique electrical properties that enable precise control of tiny electrical currents. This capability makes them the foundation of integrated circuits or electronic chips, driving significant technological advancements in human history. Their strategic importance spans various industries, from data processing and communication to aerospace, mobility, energy, and health, and they underpin future technologies like AI, IoT, and high-performance computing.  


Jose Antonio also pointed out the main challenge faced in the semiconductor field: the so-called ‘lab to fab’ gap. He believes it is crucial to have access to clean room infrastructure, where technologies can be developed and scaled up, and where prototyping can be conducted in an industrially relevant environment. 

InnoFab project: a highly advanced initiative

Key research institutions such as ICN2, where José Antonio serves as Deputy Director, play a crucial role in addressing the significant challenge of bridging the gap between the lab and the factory. During our conversation, he underlined the Innofab project as a highly advanced initiative designed to tackle this issue. The Innofab project aims to build a pioneering clean room infrastructure, enabling the development of cutting-edge semiconductor technologies in an industrially relevant environment. 


The initiative has three strategic objectives:  

  1. Firstly, to foster breakthroughs in the next generation of semiconductor technologies 
  2. Secondly, to support small industries and R&D centres in transitioning from an R&D environment to a near-production setting 
  3. Thirdly, to nurture talent and train the new generation of workers in this field   

This initiative has been launched in collaboration with key semiconductor stakeholders in Barcelona’s R&D sector, including the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Generalitat de Catalunya, the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona, ALBA Synchrotron, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and Barcelona & Partners. 


The coordination and broad support from both private and public stakeholders have been crucial, with Barcelona & Partners playing a key role in ensuring the success of this endeavour.  


According to Jose Antonio Garrido, “In the field of semiconductor, Barcelona offers a very unique environment. It covers the whole value chain, from R D to industry. We have one of the largest infrastructures in the south of Europe, the national centre for Microelectronics, a very large clean room. We also have large infrastructure which would allow us to advance efficiently. I’m thinking of centres like the Barcelona Supercomputing centre, with a strong expertise in high performing computing centres like the Alba synchrotron, which is unique in our country. Also, when we think of talent, we have universities that can support and train the new generation of engineers and technicians working in this area. Finally, I don’t want to forget the general environment, the business environment. We have business school; we have a vibrant startup ecosystem. And I believe that Barcelona is a very strong area and a polar attraction, as you said. And finally, it is true that our country has been allocated by Europe one of the largest funding for semiconductor technologies from the whole Europe. And this is certainly going to be very relevant for industry to come to our area.” 


Initiatives like Innofab demonstrate that Barcelona offers a unique environment that encompasses the entire value chain from R&D to industry. It boasts one of the largest infrastructures in southern Europe, including the National Centre for Microelectronics with a large clean room. The city has innovative R&D centres and large facilities like the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and the Alba Synchrotron. Additionally, local universities support and train the next generation of engineers and technicians. Beyond infrastructure, Barcelona has a vibrant semiconductor startup ecosystem. 

At Barcelona & Partners we aim to keep growing the number of companies willing to invest in our city and make Barcelona, a global tech reference.

Contact us