Singapore to be German chipmaker Infineon's first global AI hub


Heng Swee Keat said Infineon is a role model in Singapore's semiconductor industry that has created many good jobs for locals across many different roles.- ST

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): German microchip maker Infineon Technologies will spend S$27 million over the next three years to make Singapore its first global hub to see artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in every job function.

The plan includes the upskilling of more than 1,000 of its 2,200 employees here and the deployment of about 25 unique AI projects covering the entire value chain of activities by 2023, said Chua Chee Seong, president and managing director of Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific.

He was speaking at a ceremony on Tuesday (Dec 1) to mark the company's 50th year in Singapore.

The Republic is home to Infineon's Asia-Pacific headquarters, a key node for its global distribution channels and its only microelectronics research and development centre in the region, excluding Greater China and Japan.

One of the world's top 10 chipmakers, Infineon has been part of Singapore's semiconductor landscape for the past 50 years. It started out first as Siemens, assembling low-cost discrete transistors and diodes, and passive components.

The company has invested about $700 million here in the last decade to become the lead site for smart factory solutions development and the global test hub for automotive microcontroller units.

"Singapore is the first in Infineon worldwide to embark on a comprehensive AI journey for all our business and manufacturing operations, embedding AI into every job function," Chua said.

In a separate media briefing, he said the digital transformation will not require any changes in staffing. In fact, the plan is to make its existing employees capable of deploying and developing AI solutions in all business functions and help make AI the foundation of the company's next 50 years.

The company is prepared to hire more people if needed for the AI journey, he added.

Within the AI solutions development plan, the company will engage with the semiconductor, electronics and innovation ecosystems in Singapore through collaborations with SGInnovate, local start-ups, institutes of higher learning and research institutions.

Infineon is also looking to empower the next generation of employees and innovators by collaborating with the National University of Singapore's Institute of Systems Science and the National Research Foundation's AI Singapore programme to offer AI courses and certifications.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was at the ceremony on Tuesday, said the global semiconductor industry is the backbone for the rapid adoption of digital technologies, which has been accelerated by the coronavirus-induced crisis.

He said the industry is the source of smarter solutions amid the rising demand for more advanced technologies - such as edge computing, the Internet of things and AI.

"Infineon is well-positioned to serve this rising demand with its range of world leading semiconductor products," he added.

Heng, who is also the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, said Infineon is a role model in Singapore's semiconductor industry that has created many good jobs for locals across many different roles.

He highlighted Infineon's Jumpstart Graduate Programme, where fresh local university graduates are mentored as they rotate through different departments, and the company's commitment to the SG United Traineeship programme.

To build a good pipeline of talent for the industry, Infineon also co-hosts the Chips @ School competition with Stem Inc to spur the interest of Singapore's secondary students in Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), he said.

Under the AI initiative, Infineon Singapore will be partnering academia, industry and local start-up SixSense AI to develop new AI solutions and courses, and will also be signing a memorandum of understanding with SGInnovate to partner other AI start-ups, said Heng.

Infineon chief executive officer Reinhard Ploss, who attended the event virtually, said Singapore's national strategy to develop impactful AI solutions and become a Smart Nation fits well with Infineon Singapore's vision to make it an AI innovation hub and a key player in the company's global AI strategy.

"Singapore is a global node of technology, innovation and enterprise that is able to reinvent itself while conserving its strengths. The country offers a vibrant innovation ecosystem and an attractive environment for top talents to live and work in," Dr Ploss said.

Dr Beh Swan Gin, chairman of the Economic Development Board, said Infineon's decision to locate its global AI innovation hub here is another milestone in its longstanding partnership with the Republic.

"The latest investment will allow Infineon to build new smart solutions for its operations in Singapore and beyond, and in the process upskill its Singapore workforce," he said.

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