LONDON If Infineon could be persuaded to follow STMicroelectronics and switch outsourced IC manufacturing to GlobalFoundries in Dresden, we would some of the way along the path to creating a Eurofoundry that would keep advanced digital CMOS manufacturing in Europe, albeit with the help of Abu-Dhabian petrodollars.
In any case, the news that ST is going to switch a "significant" amount of its advanced CMOS outsource manufacturing to the Dresden wafer fabs of GlobalFoundries Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) is positive news for the European region.
Like most of the leading Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDMs), ST has been adopting a fab-lite strategy which saw much of its advanced digital CMOS manufacturing being put out to foundries in Taiwan, specifically Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and United Microelectronics Corp. Similarly Infineon is said to be using foundry suppliers in Greater China, and NXP BV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) is closely aligned with TMSC.
As these fab-lite strategies have played out over the last few years there have been politicians, industry executives and observers bemoaning the trend and predicting the eventual loss to Europe of all semiconductor manufacturing and the negative impact that would have on wealth creation in Europe through semiconductor design.
The break-up of the Crolles research and pilot manufacturing collaboration between ST, NXP and Freescale at the end of 2007 prompted Joseph Borel, former executive vice president in central research and development at ST, to send a 12-page proposal to the French government calling for the consolidation of manufacturing at Infineon Technologies, NXP and ST manufacturing into a globally competitive European foundry.
The days of government-controlled national champion chip companies are long gone and Borel's proposal made no headway against the corporate interests behind the three companies, then enjoying some growth and profits. But Borel's proposal may at least have raised awareness and debate. It may have sensitized Carlo Bozotti, CEO of ST, to cut his deal with GlobalFoundries. And the greater the amount of ST's manufacturing done in Europe, the less that is done in Taiwan.