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IPCEI on Microelectronics – NXP Contributes Security Technology

The extremely rapid advance of digitalisation cannot be sustainably implemented without energy-efficient and secure microelectronic components. The issue of energy efficiency seems to be (justifiably) omnipresent. In contrast, insufficient attention continues to be paid to the field of security in many applications and sectors. In part, this has business-critical implications, as one can increasingly read about in the media.

In this regard, security is one of twelve megatrends which will gain in importance for individuals and for society as a whole, according to the Future Institute (“Zukunftsforschungsinstitut”). A distinction is made in English between “safety” and “security,” whereas both are encompassed in the German designation “Sicherheit.” However, both aspects are crucial with respect to digitalisation. “Safety” in the field of networked mobility and intelligent production means the physical integrity of people involved with automobiles or industrial facilities. In this context, “security” means one can rely on fundamental principles such as confidentiality, data security and authenticity in the architecture of the hardware and software components being used.

The issue of security is so important to NXP that it already established a global competence centre several years ago which is being developed and managed from Gratkorn. In 2019, within the context of the IPCEI on Microelectronics, an opportunity arose for the competence centre to expand its work to encompass a new thematic field, namely linking traditional security issues with innovative new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Here the priority is to leverage the new technological possibilities to enhance system security using AI and ML as well as to ensure that algorithms and systems based on AI and ML offer at least the same level of security and confidentiality as traditional solutions.

Major European initiatives such as the IPCEI on Microelectronics, in which a new generation of hardware-based security chips (so-called “secure elements”) is being developed by NXP, as well as complementary national funding programmes, have enabled NXP to attract this highly innovative new thematic field to the Gratkorn site in Austria. This was done within the context of a competition among NXP locations and with the professional support provided by ABA. Other key reasons for the selection of Gratkorn include the far-reaching technical expertise and the high level of commitment on the part of the existing team as well as the high-quality education offered in Austria. Nevertheless, the lack of a sufficient number of skilled workers is increasingly becoming an impediment to growth in Austria and Europe. A high-performance innovation ecosystem, a thriving culture of cooperation among the different players in research and industry as well as an attractive funding environment (duality between direct and indirect research promotion) round off the locational advantages in Austria. In spite of pandemic-related difficulties, the planned addition of 60 high-tech jobs has already been completed, for the most part, over the past two years.

However, this does not represent the end of NXP’s success story in Austria. Recently the company announced its next large-scale investment with respect to the infrastructure (e.g., a high-tech laboratory) and the workforce. The second IPCEI project (IPCEI ME/CT) currently in the application phase should serve as a major driving force in this regard.

In spite of these successes and the fundamentally positive business environment, Michael Jerne, Director of External Relations at NXP Gratkorn, sees further room for improvement. “In order to sustainably position the Austrian business location as one of the leading global chip hotspots, the political ambitions, which were, for example recently expressed within the context of the European Chips Act, must also be translated into reality on a national level on the basis of competitive budgets. In this respect, there is significant ground to be made up compared to other countries, for example by providing sufficient funding for the IPCEI ME/CT or for programmes such as Key Digital Technologies (KDT, formerly ECSEL).” Sufficient funding policy support for research initiatives addressing the issue of digitalisation (including security) seems to have diminished considerably although only a “twin transition” i.e., a combined digital and green transformation can lead to success. Further research and innovation in both areas is essential for the competitiveness of Austrian players and thus the viability of Austria as a (micro)electronics location. “Is security actually a ‘green’ technology? Probably not directly,” Michael Jerne adds. “However, plants and vehicles running on alternative energies will also not be able to operate resiliently and efficiently without the corresponding connectivity and security. The Austrian funding policy must encompass both guiding themes (Green Deal, Digital Transformation) in a balanced manner. Otherwise, enormous potential will be lost,” he concludes.

Find out more about digitalization in Austria.


NXP Semiconductors Austria GmbH and Co KG

Michael Jerne
Tel.:+43 3124 299 160

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Located in the heart of Europe, Austria offers an optimal base for our internationally orientated business. The great funding options as well as the support of institutions such as ABA – Invest in Austria and the Vienna Business Agency have turned out to be real USPs for the business location Austria. More and more skilled workers are drawn to Austria, because of it’s high living standard. This has helped us tremendously finding highly qualified employees for our company. We feel right at home within the steadily growing international ecosystem and easily built a network with local parties. One can feel the spirit and the will to grow into a bigger startup hub like Germany or Sweden. We hope, that by sharing our positive experiences, we can help attract more global talent to come to Austria.


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