Pat Gelsinger says Ireland is in the running for a multibillion investment by the tech giant, and that the country has many advantages but we are not as up to speed on the inclusion and diversity front as we should be, as he cites the lack of female engineers being one weakness.

Ireland is in the running to scoop a significant new multibillion-dollar Intel investment, the organisation’s chief executive Pat Gelsinger has said. 

Gelsinger said a key advantage for Ireland in landing the investment is Intel’s long relationship with the country, which means state agencies know what it needs in terms of facilities.

“There is a lot more understanding and confidence in an Irish proposal, because you know what you’re talking about because you’ve been doing this with us for 32 years,” he said.

“Now we’ve made it very clear that we are looking broadly across Europe [in terms of investments] and it is very important it is seen as an EU project and is about raising the technology footprint of Europe as a whole. Even though there are going to be clear winners, we want everyone to feel like they are a winner,” he added. 

Diversity and inclusion challenges

However, while saying that the state’s proposal for a new 'Megafab' facility were promising, he did say that there are some factors that could impact whether the company continues to invest locally: “You have a little bit of advantage here [over other countries] because we have been doing this together for a while but there are a lot of things that you aren’t doing. Like on the diversity and inclusion front, there are far too few female engineers and I’m not happy about that. I find it disappointing how far from the rest of the world Ireland is on this point. I love Ireland but that is one thing you’re not doing okay with.” 

Gelsinger's comments come just months after Intel announced plans to create 1,600 new jobs as part of a $7 billion (€6 billion) investment in the three years to the end of 2021 aimed at more than doubling the manufacturing space at its Irish operation.

Intel is planning to invest as much as €80 billion in Europe over the next decade to boost the region’s semiconductor production capacity, with plans for two major new European fabrications plants to be announced by the end of the year.

There has been speculation that Germany and France would be most likely to land the investments, with Poland – where Intel has had operations for many years – also up for consideration. However, speaking to The Irish Times on a visit to the company’s facility in Leixlip, Co Kildare, last week Gelsinger indicated that Ireland was also in the running to secure the investment.

“We are in the process of identifying the next site and have been seeking proposals from the various European states. We received about 70 and several of those are from Ireland. There is one in particular that looks particularly promising out of three received,” he said.

Boost capacity in Europe

He said that even if Ireland doesn’t secure the new investment, the state will gain from the company’s move to increase chip capacity in Europe generally.

The continent’s global share of semiconductor manufacturing has dropped from 44% to just 9% over the 32 years for which Intel has had a presence in Ireland, even as semiconductor demand continues to grow. The company is looking to boost capacity in Europe and sees its Irish operation playing a key role in its strategy.

Gelsinger said discussions at a global level on corporate taxation and its possible impact on Ireland would not affect investment decisions either now or in the future.

“You think I’m ever going to move this fab [fabrication plant]?” he said. “This is a massive investment for us. . . You’re stuck with us, and we are stuck with you.”

Gelsinger also announced plans recently to open up its Leixlip plant for other companies to use to it help alleviate a global shortage that has disrupted car production in particular. Intel is the biggest maker of processor chips for PCs and data centres globally. But with car manufacturers also increasingly using them in vehicles, Gelsinger is keen to see the company increase its market share in the space by allowing other organisations to use Intel technology to develop their own chips.

He said the company’s 'foundry services' initiative is just one of many plans Intel intends to take to regain momentum after starting to lag competitors.

“We’re famously known for our clients and our server products. They are still our biggest businesses. But we’re also going to be in the graphics and gaming business, we have a set of AI products that we are launching and are significantly expanding our networking business, “ he said.

“I’m expecting these businesses to be significant new areas of growth and revenue for the company, even as we grow out our core cloud, and client operations as well. However big we are today; my goal is to make us significantly bigger over the next four or five years.”