Paul van Gerven
24 March 2021

Pat Gelsinger, who took the helm at Intel only about a month ago, isn’t wasting any time. In a webcast yesterday, he unveiled a bold new vision aimed at becoming the undisputed leader of the semiconductor industry again. Dubbed “IDM 2.0,” the strategy doubles down on in-house manufacturing, while also increasing engagement with both external customers and foundries.

“We’re bringing back the execution discipline of Intel. What I’ve called the Grove-ian culture that we do what we say that we’re doing to do,” Gelsinger said, referring to Intel’s third CEO Andy Grove, whose relentless focus on flawless execution put Intel at the top. Incidentally, Gelsinger served under Grove.

Intel Pat Gelsinger
Pat Gelsinger showing off the Ponte Vecchio, Intel’s first exascale GPU. Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel

Gelsinger re-affirmed the company’s intention to continue manufacturing the majority of its products internally. He said that 7nm development is progressing well, expecting the first tape-out in the second quarter of the year. By reintroducing the tick-tock model of alternating process node enhancements with microarchitecture updates, Gelsinger is looking to regain “unquestioned CPU leadership performance” in 2024 or 2025.

At the same time, Intel is reviving its foundry ambitions. Describing the previous attempt as “half-hearted,” Gelsinger announced the start of an independent foundry business unit offering x86, Arm and Risc-V core chips from fabs located both in the US and Europe. To bolster manufacturing operations, Intel announced the construction of two new fabs in Arizona, costing 20 billion dollars. The company will also upgrade its fab near Dublin to 7nm technology as well as doubling its manufacturing space.

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With the latter investment, Intel is responding to European concerns of becoming overly reliant on Asian companies for their advanced semiconductor supply. “We have 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,” Eamonn Sinnott, general manager of Intel Ireland, wrote on Euractiv.

Finally, Intel intends to expand the use of third-party foundries. As its chips are increasingly modular, ie composed of independently manufactured chiplets (Intel calls them “tiles”) packaged together, it becomes easier to outsource chip parts. That doesn’t mean that foundries will only make the ‘easy stuff,’ though. Advanced process node tiles will be outsourced as well.