Abu Dhabi eyes high-tech future

05 January 2011

Emirate targets high-tech sector as a key pillar of strategy to diversify outside the hydrocarbons industry. UAE to have Middle East’s first $6bn-plus semiconductor factory

The new $6bn-plus semiconductor factory that is on the verge of being built in Abu Dhabi marks an exciting new chapter in the industrial development of both the UAE and the Middle East.

The plant will be the first of its kind in the region. The Abu Dhabi-owned Advanced Technology Investment Company (Atic) that is behind the project hopes it will kick-start the emirate’s move into high-tech industries.

Investing more than $6bn gives an idea of how complex a project the new plant will be. Making silicon wafers that are used in the electronics and solar industries is a complicated process and requires an incredibly clean environment and highly skilled employees.

The plant will also create 1,500 new jobs, with a further 4,500 expected to be created if a technology cluster is developed around the plant.

The Atic subsidiary, Globalfoundries will be running the plant, and is the world’s third largest microchip manufacturer by revenue. With two similar factories currently in operation in Singapore and Germany, as well as one under construction in New York, the company will be bringing plenty of experience to the region.

What will be vital to the success of the project is the involvement of local universities. Young local graduates need to be adequately trained and ready to develop a career in the electronics industry.

Atic is trying to ensure this happens by building a semiconductor research and development centre on the campus of the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research.

What will also help is that Globalfoundries is based in Silicon Valley in the US. Just being headquartered in the same place as companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft will be enough to evoke interest from young people in the region.

The Atic facility is just the beginning for the electronics industry in the region, it will prove to be a catalyst of much larger growth.

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