Intel will create 1,600 high-tech jobs and more than double the manufacturing space at its Irish operation as part of a global plan to accelerate its chipmaking capabilities and revive the company's fortunes.
Intel Ireland general manager Eamonn Sinnott said on Tuesday night that there would be "additional opportunity for investment" when the chipmaker announces the next wave of expansions to support a new "foundry" business that will make chips for other companies.
Details of this next phase are due “within the year”.
The semiconductor giant is investing $7 billion in the Irish business over the three years to the end of 2021 as it expands its base in Leixlip, Co Kildare, in a major project it said was creating a further 5,000 construction jobs.
Intel is expected to ramp up its hiring in the coming years, with the expansion process, already underway, likely to take up to two-and-a-half years from now to complete.
"We are accelerating investment in Europe and supporting the EU's ambition of having 20 per cent of the world's cutting-edge chips manufactured locally," said Mr Sinnott.
“This investment is designed to bring Intel’s latest generation 7nm process technology to the region and expand our manufacturing operations. It will also drive economic growth in the region,” he wrote in a post published online.
Planning documents indicating the likely scale of the job creation now confirmed by Intel were submitted in early 2019 and Intel subsequently received approval to extend its facility from An Bord Pleanála. A legal challenge was then brought by a local landowner, however, and a full court hearing of this case is not expected until later this year.
Over the 30 years from 1989 to 2019, Intel invested $15 billion (€12.3 billion) in its Irish operation and it already employs about 4,900 staff across the State, the majority of them in Leixlip.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed the announcement, saying the company has made an “enormous contribution to Ireland” and that Intel’s Ireland journey had been an “extraordinary one”.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said Intel’s statement was “fantastic news” and “another huge vote of confidence in Ireland’s future”, while Co Kildare Chamber chief executive Allan Shine said it looked forward to the “continuing success story of Intel in Kildare”.
Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland said the move will “continue to position the Irish site at the centre of Intel’s European and future global operations.”
Mr Sinnott wrote that Intel had “a shared ambition with the EU to deliver state-of-the-art semiconductor technology to Europe and create a more geographically balanced manufacturing capacity”.
Intel is “uniquely positioned” to support the EU’s vision for a digital transformation by 2030, he added.
Mr Sinnott’s comments on the future of the Irish operation came as Intel’s new chief executive Pat Gelsinger unveiled an ambitious bid to regain its manufacturing lead by spending billions of dollars on new factories and creating a foundry business, through which it will act as a manufacturing partner for other companies.
Intel’s stock jumped about 6 per cent as Mr Gelsinger outlined how Intel would go into direct competition with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s most-advanced chipmaker.
Intel will spend an initial $20 billion on two new plants in Arizona to support its attempt to break into the foundry business. The majority of the company's chips will be manufactured in-house, Mr Gelsinger said.
Intel dominated the $400 billion industry for decades by making the best designs in its own cutting-edge factories. That strategy crumbled in recent years as the company missed deadlines for new production technology, while most other chipmakers tapped foundry specialists to make their designs.
“We are off to the races, we’re going to be at parity and then to move to sustained leadership, over time,” said Mr Gelsinger.
The Intel boss's plan will be welcomed by those who want the company to reassert technology leadership. China is investing hundreds of billions of dollars to develop its own semiconductor industry and there are renewed calls for the US government to support domestic production amid a global chip shortage.
– Additional reporting: Bloomberg