After 30 years chipping away, is Intel to create thousands of new Irish jobs?

11 Jan 2019

Fab workers. Image: Intel

There are indications that a major construction project is about to begin in Leixlip.

Chip giant Intel is rumoured to be on the verge of a major manufacturing expansion at its facility in Kildare.

Such an expansion, it has been reported, will pave the way for thousands of construction jobs followed up by hundreds of technician roles when the facility is built.

‘Looking ahead, we are now in the early planning phase for manufacturing site expansions in Oregon, Ireland and Israel, with multi-year construction activities expected to begin in 2019’

While no formal announcement has been made about the company’s plans, The Irish Times newspaper cites “official circles” who indicate that Intel will move to increase its manufacturing capacity in Leixlip.

The timing of such an expansion could be auspicious considering this year marks the 30th anniversary of Intel setting up in Ireland.

Writing the next chapter in the compute continuum

Intel began its Irish operation in a car showroom in west Dublin in 1989. Within five years, the Irish team were producing more than a third of all Pentium processors in the world at the height of the PC revolution. Today, at the opening chapter of the cloud, IoT and autotech revolutions, Intel’s Irish operations are understood to be producing around half of the company’s global supply of 14nm processors.

According to reports, the investment is likely to run into billions of euro over a number of years as the chip giant ramps up its global capacity to meet anticipated demand.

Last year, reported that Intel already has planning permission for a new 90,000 square metre facility adjacent to its Leixlip plant. We reported at the time that if the company decided to proceed with the project it is expected that roughly 3,000 people would be employed during the construction phase. Once complete, around 850 people would work at the site.

A previous expansion at the plant resulted in 5,000 construction jobs.

Today, Intel employs close to 5,000 people in Ireland and has invested $13.9bn in Leixlip to date.

A $300bn opportunity

Ann Kelleher, Intel

Ann Kelleher. Image: Intel

In December, Intel’s senior vice president and general manager of manufacturing and operations, Irishwoman Ann Kelleher, announced that Intel planned to expand its major wafer fab sites in Ireland, Israel and Oregan to pursue a $300bn annual available chip market.

“This year, we raised our capital expenditures forecast and put that money to work expanding our 14nm manufacturing capacity to increase supply,” Kelleher said in a statement.

“We also made good progress on the previously announced schedule for Fab 42 fit-out in Arizona, and we made the decision to locate development of a new generation of storage and memory technology at our manufacturing plant in New Mexico. Looking ahead, we are now in the early planning phase for manufacturing site expansions in Oregon, Ireland and Israel, with multi-year construction activities expected to begin in 2019.

“Having additional fab space at the ready will help us respond more quickly to upticks in the market and enables us to reduce our time to increased supply by up to roughly 60pc. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be working through discussions and permitting with local governments and communities. It is important to note that site expansion and the related investment will be taken in stages and are always subject to change based on business, economic and other factors,” Kelleher said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years