Electronics and information systems play an ever-increasing role in the worldwide economy, representing already today nearly 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They have penetrated and transformed all aspects of life – including transportation, communications, health, government services, banking systems, entertainment and education – and have created millions of jobs in industry and services. They have also been the motor of productivity growth. Micro- and nanoelectronics are the key enabling technologies for electronics and Information & Communications Technology (ICT).

Leadership in new markets is strongly related to leadership and know-how in micro- and nanoelectronics. This requires a high level of R&D and also major investments in infrastructure. These increasing costs make it also impossible for most companies to maintain technology leadership on a stand-alone basis: co-operation is more and more cross-border and not limited to R&D.

Over the past decade, the European semiconductor industry has been able to reinforce its position through very high R&D efforts at all levels of the value chain. These efforts have been supported by public authorities both at the National and European level. As far as cross-border co-operation is concerned, the EUREKA JESSI, MEDEA and MEDEA+ programmes have been particularly effective in developing links between European companies and with public research institutes.

In the foreseeable future, the role of electronics and information systems will further increase as European society is faced with structural problems such as ageing of the population, exploding healthcare cost, transportation bottlenecks, rising energy costs and the need to increase productivity to be competitive on a worldwide basis. European citizens are expecting better health systems, safer cars, improved energy management, improved telecommunications and information access, better entertainment and security everywhere.

These societal challenges are also major opportunities for European industry. The challenge is to be the first to address the new lead markets, to impose “de facto” standards and to become worldwide market leaders in a number of these domains.

Public support for R&D must be increased to follow the increasing costs and also to catch up with competitors. In particular, for the sake of efficiency in use of public money and because of Europe as one of the leading markets, cross-border programmes will become structurally more and more important.

The CATRENE programme reflects all of the above. It embraces all key actors in the value chain – including applications, technology, materials and equipment suppliers – as well as involving both large companies and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) around a number of market opportunities and societal challenges (lighthouse projects). This new organisation reflects the increased importance of this industry but is also in line with a number of trends towards greater focus existing in national programmes.

Given its importance it will interact with other programmes in the nanoelectronics field – national, EU framework and Joint Technical Initiatives (JTI) – and with other EUREKA clusters.

CATRENE is a four-year programme, starting 1 January 2008, extendable to eight years. This is in line with the changing landscape of the semiconductor industry as well as the present view on technology evolution and the time span over which most of the major applications will develop.

The foundation for the CATRENE programme is the ambition of Europe and European companies to deliver nano-/microelectronics solutions that enable lighthouse projects and respond to the needs of society at large, improving the economic prosperity of Europe and reinforcing the ability of its industry to be at the forefront of the global competition. This allows the creation of new GSM-like lead markets, which are the foundations for European leadership.