Chip giant Intel has today committed to invest a further €1.6bn in its Leixlip operation where it plans to build and equip new wafer fabrication cleanrooms for the production of the next generation of 300mm wafers using 65 nanometer technology. The investment will secure long-term employment of the company’s existing 4,700 direct and indirect workforce in Ireland and will bring the total number of employees and contractors to over 5,000.
The new chips that will be manufactured at Leixlip will be smaller, faster, use less power and have more functionality than those currently produced. Construction of the facility will begin immediately, with production of the new chips beginning mid 2006.
The investment will equip Intel to exploit the next phase of growth in the global technology industry. After two years of downturn the semiconductor market accelerated in the last quarter of 2003 and worldwide semiconductor sales are expected to grow by 20pc in 2004.
Since coming to Leixlip in 1989, Intel has invested over €4.5bn to date in the operation, which remains the company’s only European manufacturing facility and the largest Intel operation outside the US. The Leixlip fab is made up of Fab 10, Fab 14, the IT Innovation Centre (for R&D) and the soon to be opened Fab 24, which will begin full production halfway through this year. In the middle of the technology downturn, Intel halted construction of Fab 24 only to recommence construction work in March last year amid much fanfare. Last year Intel committed to investing €12m in the IT Innovation Centre which employs 40 R&D professionals.
The latest €1.6bn investment brings the total investment planned by Intel for Ireland to almost €7bn.
Jim O’Hara (pictured), the general manager of Intel Ireland and vice president of the corporation’s technology manufacturing group, said: “We are delighted that the Corporation has made this further commitment to the enhancement of the Leixlip campus, by positioning us as one of their lead 65nm high volume manufacturing facilities. This is a magnificent endorsement of the results achieved to date by a talented Irish team.”
Tánaiste Mary Harney welcomed the latest investment commitment and commented: “This investment will ensure that Intel Ireland continues to produce the latest microchips using the latest technologies and that it maintains its reputation for successfully transferring these latest technologies from the laboratory into high volume production.
“Ireland faced stiff competition from several locations for this investment and the decision by Intel to commence this new phase of investment in its Irish operations confirms Ireland’s position as a world class technology location and one of Europe’s top locations for semiconductor innovation and manufacturing,” she said.
Harney went on: “The development of the Intel facility over the last decade perfectly illustrates the manufacturing model which IDA has identified as being of critical importance to the next phase of economic development.
“The continued evolution of Intel Ireland as an innovative, research driven and sophisticated manufacturing operation has ensured that the facility remains at the cutting edge of development and leads the way in the European semiconductor industry. It is also testament to the skills, efficiency and creativity of the Irish workforce that Intel Ireland will be at the forefront of the next phase of development for this global corporation.”
By John Kennedy