Dr. Reinhard Ploss, Infineon

»If you take a breather – you have already lost!«

14. November 2018, 10:05 Uhr | Heinz Arnold
Dr. Ploss, Infineon.jpg
Dr. Reinhard Ploss: »We decide on the location of production sites on the basis of our long-term strategy. It makes no sense for us to react to any customs duties in the short term.«
© Markt & Technik

In an interview with Markt&Technik, Dr. Reinhard Ploss, CEO of Infineon, explains how reasonable levels of security can be achieved in the world of IoT despite alleged espionage chips,...

...how IoT and AI are changing the chip industry and Infineon, and why employees – without fear of making themselves obsolete – are having fun with it.

Markt&Technik: The story published by Bloomberg about the espionage chips has made waves in public. Quite apart from the truthfulness of the current case, how can the industry protect itself against such activities?

Dr. Reinhard Ploss: Everyone wants to know everything, nothing new there. However, the case at hand once again raises the question of what the basic architectures for reliable communication should actually consist of. From my point of view, integrated security architectures are needed, to form the basis on which certified servers and other certified communication equipment can work. In order to guarantee security via encryption and authentication processes, Infineon and other companies have developed security chips at great expense. But these are just individual elements. Ultimately, it is important to generate systemic security from them. But we can only achieve this if politics and industry work closely together.

Couldn’t it work without the involvement of politics?

Politics must take the initiative to ensure that the required security architectures are built. If something so complex is to be created, regulations must be established and competitors be allowed to cooperate closely. Infineon has developed a number of key elements for this, as have other European semiconductor manufacturers. But we cannot be held responsible for the certification of system architectures. Experience shows that political involvement is necessary.

Surely it would be desirable to have the entire manufacturing process – from chips to complete systems under control here in Europe?

I don’t think much of setting up server factories and shielding supply chains from each other. In a globalized world, we must not create regional islands. That is why I consider certifiable security architecture to be so important. Europe has the best prerequisites for doing this – this is a great opportunity that must be seized quickly. It is possible to build it without walls.

The current trend worldwide seems to be more towards isolation and less towards globalization and free trade. Are the alarm bells ringing for you?

Basically, I am in favor of open borders. But there have always been unfair market practices in various regions of the world that had to be discussed. Furthermore, the semiconductor industry has very often been at the center of national interests – precisely because it is a key industry. 80 to 90 percent of innovation in cars is now based on electronics, especially semiconductors, which thus make a decisive contribution to differentiation and value creation in the automotive industry. The situation is similar in communications, and in these days of AI, despite all the algorithms, hardware is even more important than it was in the past. However, we can clearly see that the situation on the world markets has worsened.

Has the situation deteriorated so much because it’s all a question of eliminating a few unfair practices?

There are certainly many other factors that also play a role. However, we should all be aware that the instruments available to combat unfair practices always have secondary effects. In general, the markets have become more nervous.

Is Infineon nevertheless considering setting up additional production facilities at new locations in other regions of the world?

We are continuing with our long-term strategy. Criteria for selecting locations are concentration on the deployment and expansion of local know-how, geopolitical stability and level of trust. Such considerations recently led to our decision to expand capacities for production of 300 mm power semiconductors at the Villach site. For such major decisions, however, we have to think seven years or more ahead. It makes no sense for us to react to any customs duties in the short term.

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