Intel expansion in Poland brings new opportunities – but not without challenges

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: Intel

Intel announced on June 16 its US$4.6 billion investment in Poland to create a semiconductor assembly and test facility. Considered the largest greenfield investment in Polish history, the facility will be located in the city of Wrocław. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger noted Poland's infrastructure and cost competitiveness, in addition to Poland's strong technical talent base.

In 2021, Intel just announced an investment worth approximately EUR72 million to expand its R&D presence in the Polish city of Gdańsk, where Intel has had a presence since 1999. Here Intel operates its largest R&D facility in the European Union, and the planned expansion is expected to be completed this year in 2023.

The Gdańsk R&D center, partly backed by the European Regional Development Fund, will focus on AI, autonomous vehicles, and data storage security. It will also house an audio laboratory and a high-power-density server laboratory.

Given Intel's leading position in silicon photonics research - a sector in which the Polish semiconductor industry is highly active - it remains to be seen how the Intel backend facility in Poland will synergize with the local photonic community. According to Maciej Nowakowski, director of operation with Polish Technological Platform in Photonics (PPTF), the size of the latest announced Intel investment will certainly impact the entire Polish semiconductor industry, and will be an enormous development impulse for both direct and indirect suppliers or partners.

Poland's photonic industry, emerging in the 1990s, is built on a scientific hub formed by more than a dozen faculties of the Warsaw University of Technology and Military University of Technology, in addition to the universities in Wrocław, Gdańsk, Kraków, Lublin, and Toruń. Currently, there are approximately 250 companies in Poland's photonics and microelectronics industry, with 90% of them being SMEs. Among the country's strengths are photonic IC design, III-V semiconductors, OLED and PV materials, and industrial femtosecond lasers.

Nevertheless, Nowakowski also pointed to a serious talent challenge, noting that Poland needs to build up the education capacity to the required size, otherwise the Intel investment would drain all the talents from the market. The backend facility is scheduled to begin operation in 2027.

Meanwhile, Keywan Esfarjani, Intel's global operating officer, indicated that the planned backend facility in Poland is approximately 500 km away from the Intel site in Magdeburg as well as the research center in Gdańsk. When it comes to government support, he said that the nature of the project does not involve direct subsidies, and therefore it is difficult to quantify the government subsidies.

Notably, Esfarjani stressed that the backend facility will be the only Intel semiconductor assembly and testing facility in Europe.