The US chip manufacturer Wolfspeed and the automotive supplier ZF want to set up a joint European high-tech research center in the Nuremberg area. Semiconductors made of silicon carbide for the automotive industry, other vehicle manufacturers and green power plants are to be developed and improved there. The project is supported by both the federal government and the Bavarian state government, as the two companies announced on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) put the investment volume at a press conference at 300 million euros. According to Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (Free Voters), Bavaria is contributing 40 million euros.
The research center is intended to complement the planned joint chip factory that ZF Friedrichshafen and Wolfspeed want to build in Saarland. "The whole of Europe will benefit from this project," explained ZF CEO Holger Klein. One focus of the development work should be semiconductors for electromobility, as Wolfspeed boss Gregg Lowe said.
Semiconductors are the basis of countless electronic circuits, transistors and processors. The most common material so far is silicon. According to Wolfspeed, silicon carbide semiconductors are more efficient because they allow higher switching frequencies and can be operated at higher temperatures. A practical application is therefore faster charging of electric car batteries.
According to Söder, around 150 to 200 people will work in the research center. The exact location has not yet been determined; according to ZF CEO Klein, the decision should be made in the next few weeks. Economics Minister Aiwanger spoke of a "happy day" for Bavaria. The basis for the decision in favor of Bavaria was therefore the favorable environment: research institutions and other high-tech companies. The final approval of the EU Commission is still pending.
Companies from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the USA dominate the chip industry, and Infineon in Munich is an important European manufacturer. The EU wants to strengthen Europe's position in the chip industry. However, the South Korean Samsung group has announced gigantic investments in semiconductors and chips amounting to 230 billion dollars over the next twenty years, including several new large factories. China, which suffers from US trade restrictions on semiconductors, also wants to invest heavily and take a technological lead in electronics.