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Infineon puts weight behind Singapore lab

The German chipmaker is expanding its research and development facilities and staff in its Asia-Pacific unit to concentrate on developing chip packages, microcontrollers and communications chips.

German chipmaker Infineon plans to beef up the research and development team at its new Asian headquarters in Singapore to focus on new chip packaging, microcontrollers and communications chips.

Describing the Singapore research and development lab as the company's "world center for logic packaging research," Loh Kin Wah, president of Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific, said that the new facilities will have a 350-member team in five years, compared with 220 now.

In addition, the chipmaker has partnered with Taiwanese chip foundry UMCi to develop chips based on sub-65-nanometer process technologies. The smaller the process, the less power used and the lower the heat generated; the smallest processes today use 90-nanometer processes. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter; the measurement refers to the average size of features on a chip.)

The expanded Singapore lab will work on new chip packages, or methods of stacking chips. It will also develop microcontrollers, such as those used by automakers like BMW, said Loh.

The facilities will also continue to look into high-speed communications chips, used in networking gear, and power-management integrated circuits, used in consumer and industrial electronics devices.

While other chipmaking firms are planting their Asian headquarters in Beijing and Shanghai, Loh believed that Singapore still had its attractions. By late 2004, Infineon's new Asia-Pacific headquarters will be housed in two towers on 11,000 square meters of land.

The chipmaker has contracts with several Chinese and Taiwanese companies to manufacture memory and other chips in China.

"Singapore is right in the middle," said Loh, remarking that it did not take more than seven hours to fly to any part of the Asia-Pacific--whether to Bangalore, India, or to Beijing--from the island. Singapore's logistics infrastructure was also hard to beat, he said.

"But if in five years Shanghai (China) has the infrastructure, then we will have to do something," he added. However, he said that given the size of the market there--around 200 million consumers--a separate China or North Asia headquarters might also be likely.