SILICON GENESIS EUROPE
Prof. Dr. Hans Weinerth
November 27, 2007
By Horst G. Sandfort (HGS)
Professor Weinerth, we are very happy to be today, November 27, 2007 guest at your home to allow for a passing of history with regard to events in the European Semiconductor Industry from the early days onwards and a review of the time in which you have engaged with the Industry.
You were born in 1935 in Aussig (Sudetenland) at the Elbe river and moved in 1946 to Hessia, where you experienced the years of reconstruction and completed school 1955 with the “Abitur” ( Matura). You started studying physics in Marburg at the Lahn river and finished 1960.
What made you consider an engagement within the semiconductor industry?
Yes, I completed in Marburg my Diploma on the subject of Television, had however a preference in the area of theoretical physics, which had been well represented by Prof. Fluegge and on the experimental side by Prof. Walcher, who both came out of the Goettingen “school”. Towards the end of the study time a gentleman by the name of Otto Madelung showed up, who presented information about semiconductor physics and material. The theoretical aspects I knew. Now, the enthusiasm which was expressed in the way of life by Madelung, who has been only given a time window for Saturday mornings at 8 AM for his presentations by his “beloved” comrades and who had to travel five hundred kilometers to get to us, was exemplary. In such a Saturday presentation we were five students at the beginning of the semester and three at the end, which allowed for a very intensive contact.
This was my entry into the Semiconductor World, which accompanied me for the rest of my life and my professional life.
Yes, Professor Madelung was a man who must have loved what he knew and did, to travel 500 kilometers on weekends to educate three students and lead them to their dissertations.
No, just into the professional life, the dissertation came later. Madelung was setting the example, how engaged one should be for something one believed in. From today's review hardly believable, that this was even possible. His presentations were mostly about theoretical physics. This stayed with me all my life and with the experience of today, I can judge what kind of almost torture the development for somebody like Otto Madelung, a recognized industrialist, must have been, to turn to an academic career. I moved after my Diploma the other way into Industry and among the many options, I choose a rather unknown and small company to get started: Intermetall in Freiburg. I never had to regret this, as this company had a climate of entrepreneurship, which I may not have found in a big corporation, for someone like me, to whom this was very important. I had signed an employment contract for the R&D department, as I was coming from the theoretical aspects of physics. However, when I arrived in Freiburg, I was taken aside and kindly asked, if I would consider starting in the manufacturing plant, as there the need for good talent was high. This was a big jump from mathematical equations to rudimentary issues like dealing with yields running towards zero. Now I had to find the balance between my theoretical background, which I did not want to let go and the hard realities of production. Originally I had the idea to work for my dissertation in theoretical physics at the Marburg University, did however not follow through, as I got married right after my Diploma and a child was under way. The academic career was financially too shaky to build a family on, so I ended up in industry. After several years, when I was settled, unrest came up and I was looking for opportunities to write my dissertation as an external student, which finally worked out, however not in theoretical physics, but in electrical engineering, which knowledge I had to add, so that at the end of 1966 I could complete my dissertation at the technical University in Aachen with Professor Engl, on a subject in conjunction with my job at Intermetall: Avalanche and Zener Diodes. This I enjoyed very much and it yielded several great products for Intermetall.
(HGS): This must have been a very interesting period within your life, which ran in parallel with certain developments, which were hardly known in the USA and also in Europe, as somewhere in the background a certain Mr. Shockley played a role. Is there a connection?
(HW): Yes that is true. Shockley was working in the mid sixties with a strong emphasis on special diodes after he had worked on Transistors and received his Nobel Price, actually with Avalanche Effects, which have been a very important subject to Intermetall as the leading Diode manufacturer. Meanwhile Intermetall had been acquired by ITT, so were the Shockley Laboratories in Palo Alto. With this, Shockley Labs became the R&D Headquarters for us and we developed very close contacts. This happened about the same time, when Shockley exchanged the majority of his team and replaced the departures with young German scientists. He expected from them a better understanding for his methodologies and work behavior. During this time I had received many stimulants for my work from the Shockley Labs, finally by Shockley himself. The contacts included the presentation of my dissertation, which generated a lot of stimulating discussion.
(HGS): The time, which we know for the dramatic developments in the USA, when the “disloyal bunch” left and founded Fairchild Semiconductor, a time which has been analyzed diligently and reported on be the people involved. However you referred to several German scientists, who were hired as replacements by Shockley for the “disloyal bunch”. Do you have memory with regard to people, who have made significant contributions to the development of the Semiconductor Industry in Europe?
(HW): Yes, next to some who have stayed in the USA until they retired, one should mention Roland Haitz with Hewlett Packard and Wolly Schroen with Texas Instruments, beside a few who returned directly or later: those were Lenny Goetzberger, who went from the Shockley labs to work at Bell and ended with the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg (Germany), where he delivered significant contributions in the area of solar technology. Also Queisser must be mentioned, who came via Bell to Hessia, respectively Stuttgart, to the max Planck Institute, before both of them taught at their respective Universities as Professors. Others like Strack, who ended up in Darmstadt via Telefunken or Wagner, who also ended up at Telefunken after he had been at Fraunhofer Institute. These were a nucleus enriching the academic world and also worked fruitful for the German industry.
(HGS): During your time at Intermetall, you also had co-workers. If I remember correctly you worked together with a certain Mr. Lorenz and there were other people in other departments, like Mr. Dahlberg for example, who all have made significant contributions to the industry. Can you comment to this statement?
(HW): Yes, I would like to start with Seiler, because he was the origin of this nucleus, who came from Stuttgart University and became Head of Intermetall, which he influenced with establishing strong structures. Yes, from the names you mentioned, Lorenz will cross our ways in the professional life several times in the future. He has been at the end Head of R&D at Intermetall and at that time my boss. Part of this time has been the development of the Varicap Diode, which was developed in cooperation with GRUNDIG, who made this real. And Dahlberg, who left Intermetall earlier than Lorenz, became head of semiconductors at AEG Telefunken in Heilbronn, who is nowadays better known for his ideas to collect Solar Energy from the SAHARA desert, who during his period at Telefunken lead significant developments for the Military.
There were several more personalities, just to mention Micic, who became Managing Director at Intermetall, who was famous for his senses for future applications for the devices under development or in production, which were not obvious, or Knaur, a man, who was my first boss and had the ability to lead young scientists like myself to new experiments with a great pragmatism and knowledge in all practical aspects when dealing with semiconductors. Intermetall was the “mother” for many talented people, who made it in the industry.
(HGS): And inside this environment many things were developed, which were new and inside these new territories you have received great honors yourself. Can you say something to that effect ?
(HW): Yes, beside the VariCap development, which I accompanied, we were the first in Germany, applying Planar technology. This was a big step for a small company like Intermetall. We were able to sign a very good agreement with Fairchild, allowing us to also participate in any future development, however these were no easy copycats. We received a bunch of paper and could look at the process once. That's all one had to study and how to control the air and use very specific chemicals, was not even mentioned. We needed to find out for ourselves. These were long ways to get functional Zener Diodes, may be for today's thirty centimeter diameter wafers hard to understand. When I started at Intermetall, the standard silicon had a diameter of one inch and was pulled inside Intermetall.
(HGS): even the Ingot ?
(HW): Yes, not for very long. Wacker could deliver at much lower cost, when the only other supplier was SIEMENS, from which Intermetall could never have bought silicon wafers.
(HGS): As soon as there was a third party supplier, if one may say so, Wacker Chemicals in Burghausen (Bavaria)..
(HGS): there was no more the pressure to pull Ingots and cut wafers, as Wacker did not make semiconductors.
(HW): Yes, but only the Ingots, which was a smart move by Wacker not to compete with their customers. They held on to this all this time.
(HGS): I see in this a very interesting development, as every semiconductor company during the early days wanted to be independent from raw material and started to pull all their own ingots and wafer requirements. Regardless whether this was Texas Instruments, Siemens, Intermetall, etc. and all of sudden this company Wacker came from the side lines, a courageous company which said, we can do this better, leave this stuff to us.
(HW): Yes they also have proven that they can do this much better than anyone else, see their very high market penetration today. However the reason why everyone was doing this for themselves had to do with the complexity of the process and the purity of the basic material, which everyone had a different requirement or specification for. Today nobody seriously considers this anymore, as the individual problems for impurity causing transistors to malfunction, are already dealt with during the processing of the ingot. However at the time we were solving puzzles when we were looking for the answers, when a Transistor all of a sudden stopped functioning and the failure mode could not be reproduced. This was a lively time…
(HGS): and important directions were set for the future. Raw material was now coming from companies like Wacker and the focus moved to realizing higher integration of functionality on the wafers themselves.
(HW): yes there were enough issues left to be resolved also in the chemical processing of the wafers, where existing test and analytical methods did not exist, to warrant the reproduction of the chips. It took many more years, before most of the wafer related issues were dealt with at the wafer supplier level.
(HGS): We already spoke about the year 1966, when you completed your dissertation in Electrical Engineering at the University of Aachen guided by Professor Engl. Can you add some comments with regard to Engl? When we speak about cornerstones of the semiconductor industry, he plays an important role.
(HW): Yes, Engl originated from SIEMENS, however not with a semiconductor background.
He received his teaching assignment when he was still very young, albeit only five or six years older than I, I became his first candidate for a doctoral thesis, which was followed by a hugh amount of other PhD's. Also if we look how many teaching University Professors came out of the Engl school. Engl was and still is today one of the people who could lead and excite students, even though he was tough like a rock and would not allow anyone passing with weak arguments and statements. As a result it had not been easy for me as an external student working for an American company to get a seat. At the time, when I started, I had to ask my boss, whether the company Intermetall would agree to my plans. My boss smiled and said: we need you at about twelve hours every day and that was for six days per week at that time. If you feel like you have idle time beside this, you may do that. And so it went at that time and was, when I remember well, often like running the gauntlet for a Physics guy from the industry to return to the academic world, where he is confronted with things which overlap from Physics to Electrics and which I was trying to sort out. I had to answer questions with regard to the capacity dimensions of Russian High Voltage Lines and the direction the Russians had taken to building the generators. This was really tough for me.
(HGS) Yes, and in 1966 you won. You received your PhD and continued for another two years with your job at Intermetall, followed by a change.
(HW) Yes the change was prepared by the fact that ITT had reduced the decision making flexibility inside Intermetall and the top management escaped to work for PHILIPS. I stayed for about two years. After gentlemen like Lorenz and Sauter ended up at PHILIPS I also joined. Originally it was planned for me to join in Hamburg, which was all of a sudden changed, when I received a phone call, asking me, whether I would consider to go to Holland in lieu of Hamburg, working in R&D to become familiar with the PHILIPS mentality. I could not really say “no” as it was considered a real honor for a foreigner to become a member inside the PHILIPS R&D Labs in Eindhoven. This caused some issues with the family. My daughter just went to first grade at school and neither my spouse nor I had been in Holland before. So we organized the next weekend to take a drive by car to Holland, so that we would have any idea what it was like and two months later we lived there. This was originally mentioned to be for one year and ended eight years later, of which I do not regret a single one. I am sure the central laboratories at PHILIPS were only second to the labs at Bell, compared on a global scale. Even the contacts to Bell Labs were very intense and very stimulating. It was really exciting if one could go to the USA for one week and sniff around the world leaders labs.
(HGS) PHILIPS was at that time, as you already mentioned, the premier address for R&D in Europe. (HW) Yes, however with regard to public relations in Germany, PHILIPS as the leader in Europe had its problems. The PHILIPS subsidiary in the Semiconductor Components Business in Germany, was VALVO, which was smaller than SIEMENS and depending on the subject matter, PHILIPS had its difficulties to being recognized.
(HGS) During your time at the R&D labs of PHILIPS in Eindhoven, you witnessed already the change from Transistors to integrated circuits. (HW) Yes. (HGS) Considering that time span, can you add a significant story which may relate to the long lasting relationship with the Shockley labs, all the time since your time at Intermetall, which has to do with Semiconductors, which have impacted R&D even stronger than the pure academic work ?
(HW) In Eindhoven I met with a culture for R&D of IC's of which we could only dream at Intermetall. This was a quantum leap for me, who got instantly involved in the development of the fastest IC's in the high frequency segment available within Europe. May be even larger than Europe. We were trying to control the VHF UHF market, which we realized all the way up to sampling.
(HGS) Cooperation in the semiconductor industry was not at all foreign during the state of development. You just mentioned Bell Labs, a company which gets mentioned over and over as partner. Also out of the Bell “traitors” came Fairchild Semiconductor.
(HW) In the early days Fairchild played a relatively more important role than INTEL today.
This was due to the fact that Japan and all of Asia were not yet recognized. Fairchild was very “open”, however know how from them was not available for nothing, but what one was willing to pay for, was first class.
(HGS) The time went on and one very day in Holland the direction came: Mr. Weinerth, we have something new for you.
(HW) Yes, this was another step, as Holland was R&D and pure technology. Anything to with Management was minimal. I lead an R&D team in which everybody was used to work independently from each other. The offer I received in 1975 was to do with VALVO and moving to Hamburg, to lead the Technology Department. This caused a major change in the daily tasks. From one day to the next I had the responsibility for over 200 people, inclusive an applications lab, which was in Germany the center of gravity for the entertainment industry. Nobody of importance in the Radio and TV industry could afford not to be connected to our labs. I had a task which involved issues I never before had to deal with.
Sales and Marketing support to stimulate the acceptance of micro electronics. This met with a landscape in Germany, which might have been typical. An electrical industry, which was big and also competing with PHILIPS, a very strong machine building sector within a middle class industry which for its majority did not have the desire to address a new technology coming out of the electronics sector. There was an enormous resistance to adopt and to close the distance to the USA developments. Finally it required a united effort by the industry leaders like SIEMENS, Telefunken and PHILIPS together with the BMFT, the Department for Technology, to stimulate the market. This lead over a period of ten years to the development of a network between industry and the Max Planck- and Fraunhofer Group.
There were good reasons for a close cooperation with the Department for Technology and a series of groups, addressing joint developments, leading for me into a role, where I had to deal with Fraunhofer Group, spring offs from Max Planck Group, like BESSY in Berlin or other efforts started by the BMFT. So and there was also another entry, started by the BMFT, which was the academic world, lead by people who returned from the Shockley labs, as well as people like Engl, Beneking, who were not part of the Shockley crew. These were very fruitful years.
(HGS): You already mentioned, the developments were working in a more organized fashion and as a result the Americans accused you to develop government supported protectionism and to promote developments which should leave the American competitors on the outside. The Americans had not developed infrastructures, by which they could participate in the government support. (HW): Ok, one can be of split opinion over this. Firstly, from my own memory, there has been no debate nor initial thought to instigate a wall around the markets. There were off course many discussions, why the relatively large German user community would be supplied primarily with technology from the USA and Japan. This means, the European Semiconductor industry should have been put into a balanced position as a result of the BMFT efforts. This however could never been compared to the activities by MITI in Japan. And what the comparison with the rest of the American Semiconductor Industry is concerned, we would have been very pleased, if we only had had a small piece of the budgets from the military, which the USA had pumped not only into the semiconductor industry but also into the Space industry for example, which were flowing as financial support. One needs to note that we were not eager to get public money, as this was whole heartedly against the spirit of our industry, however it was the only possibility to conquer the American mechanism. (HGS): There has also been another vehicle, which has really not been successful in Europe, Venture Capital. (HW): Yes this was the reason that we always had a slope, which lasts still until today in the waves of the market, ups and downs. The entire structure, also based in the tax legislation, might have been responsible for this, combined with the fact that many people in Germany do not have such a good income to invest money into industry and the people, like Quandt or Flick had no high priority to invest into Venture funds. And there seems the American structure to be significantly different.
(HGS): To come back, it looks like the American Industry got more money out of the military programs, Space Industry and an enormous Venture Capital availability, to which the Europeans could only hold a structure against, which had to dip into the pockets of the big corporations like PHILIPS, Siemens and SGS. All other enterprises, which still existed like Thomson in France, which were conglomerates supported by state capital, in which the Semiconductor element had a minority position. (HW) Yes, this was not only valid for Germany it was also valid for Japan, where Semiconductors became a play ground inside the conglomerates and not the centre of the corporate activities. This was also visible to a certain degree in the USA. If one compares the popular activities of INTEL with the Semiconductor activities inside Motorola, even at Texas (Instruments) and all those who have disappeared in the interim, Fairchild did not just end up inside INTEL, there was Westinghouse, who nobody talks about anymore, as INTEL has taken the lead. (HGS) Yes and many more companies who have been founded by Venture Capital (HW) yes really (HGS) which grew until today inside the joint play of the supports available. For me it is always fascinating to talk to people like yourself, that we have structures here in Europe, where inside conglomerates who have done heroic jobs to grow their initial business, they did not find a way to liberate resources in the Semiconductor sector, which kept being treated like the fifth wheel on the wagon. The money was made and invested somewhere else. (HW) Yes, Yes. (HGS) Was that a handicap ? Was that the handicap for the European Industry or do you have a different perception of this, as the European Industry had exceptional developments and worldwide successes in applications like Television, Video, Radio and Telecommunications? If we just move the computer industry for a moment into the USA, move the rest of the industries , like the automotive industry with all its electronic applications, which we have today, was that a handicap ? How do you see that today?
(HW) Ok, there were for sure some elements of after the war effects, which did not really support fast changes in established structures plus a real time handicap. I believe we never truly had a know how gap however time in itself in such a fast moving industry has a deadly element associated to it. Just to take an example from PHILIPS. Mr. Lorenz, this was about 1966, when he came to VALVO, had set a very important stage, not to run after TTL like everyone else, but at a time when nobody would have given a dime to someone, who prioritized analog circuits as the highest goal, as these devices were going into the classical entertainment industry. Nobody also believed in the possible success of the technology. It has been a real win for the German side of PHILIPS to have set the stage. What else? AEG with its subsidiary TELEFUNKEN, which has been eradicated from public recognition over time, had the advantage of in house supply like SIEMENS and also PHILIPS , when there was a dip in the market to report continuity in revenues. SGS Thomson (ST) is another good example, when they introduced the flash memory, devices which made it against the established trend worldwide, coming from zero. It would be interesting to figure out, what type of devices in the semiconductor industry were coming from outside the USA. It would be an interesting collection. It has just not been the case that everything was based on DRAMS and Microprocessors.
(HGS) Today, if we look at the European market, these old structures, which we just looked at, seem to see an entirely new development, which means it looks like they have all of a sudden realized that Semiconductors are essential and making them in their own backyard does not seem right. They allow their initiatives to be set free and to run on their own with the expectation that this may be an advantage. How do you see this new development through the historic eyes of a company leader among many other aspects, which we shall still address later. What is your view of this trend?
(HW): We have naturally two examples with Infineon ex SIEMENS and the spin out of the Semiconductor activities from PHILIPS. I would like to take an inside look from the outside. We have the same situation inside MOTOROLA. It may well be that MOTOROLA is among the US American companies with the strongest European touch, something that is also said when referring to Hewlett Packard. There may even be some parallel. The mechanism of decision making by management in the Semiconductor industry are based upon much different criteria than those used in the classical heavy industry sector, the electric generator and atomic reactor building industry. The spin out looks to me like a real alternative, as one can never escape the very large amount of financial resources, which a separate semiconductor company requires. Bank support for such business models will be measured against the ability of the spin outs to pay their debts.
(HGS) An interesting alternative, which one has to watch, whether at the end there are winners. At the moment it looks like the spun out companies enjoy their new life of freedom and move along with the consequences. Parallel to all these things new fields of applications were set up and inside these companies there were not enough engineers to support the expansion. Consequently programs were established by several Governments to create support initiatives, which moved engineers from basic know how to a system level understanding and know how access in order to push the Semiconductor industry to new horizons. This played in your life also a very major role.
(HW): That did play a role, had however an introductory period in which the contacts between SIEMENS Semiconductors and Philips Semiconductors were established. By the end of 1980 they had engaged in an initiative, which was aiming at developing more advanced engineers. Very detailed plans were prepared, however at the end, there were no concrete results nor useful applications. This finally lead into a decision at the German political Headquarters level in Bonn during 1989, to build a stimuli without the direct participation of the two big semiconductor companies. The political debate moved to decide upon a meaningful location. With a plan involving Philips Germany and SIEMENS, a location in the area of Hamburg or Schleswig Holstein where today the ISI Fraunhofer Foundation is located, may have been acceptable, however as Lower Saxony was a partner, which had assigned financial support to improve structural deficiencies – like building bicycle lanes – from financially more solid states in Germany, one finally found a solution by moving the initiative to Hannover, after the alternative for Hamburg or its periphery was impossible to find consensus for. This was a real adventure. Yes.
(HGS) There were in the area of Hannover several activities, which would have found acceptance even on the scientific base within Germany. Just to mention the work of Professors Graul, Mucha and Mussmann, who had worked also to improve students skill sets. Was it possible to engage their activities into the new initiatives ? I like to mention SICAN, your baby, if I may say so, was started during exactly this time, with the beginning of the nineties and was exactly targeted at what we just spoke about.
(HW) Yes, the task for SICAN was to engage with the researchers and transmit their findings into industrial applications, in particular for the mid size companies and by doing so, to create talent for the industry with knowledge in the most advanced applications for integrated Circuits. It has been clear to me that this could only be accomplished by not engaging in basic research, as the financial backing would never have been sufficient for doing so. Consequently we looked at talented students inside the research departments of the Universities and accelerated their engagement with applications in the electronics sector in our environment so that they were prepared to take an assignment inside the industry. This lead over time to a volume of 170 Students in Hannover, who in their majority were PhD's. The environment in Hannover was less than ideal, as we lacked industry as receivers.
However this was the base for the structural support money. I personally would have liked to see early on a closer relationship to someone like LSI LOGIC. This was unfortunately not possible, as the support money, other than for SICAN, was not going directly into industry cooperation. There was no real cross fertilization possible. Well, the very good relationships to the Universities lead to a good feeder base for us to recruit good engineers, the middle age was in the early thirties and if look back, where these people landed and ended, we see a long list of upper management positions in US based companies, as well as BOSCH, Siemens and even Philips. This has shown a real effect.
(HGS) So these were the issues associated with the industrial situation at the time and the positions you held inside industry. Beside this, you had used your time to complete your PhD's in spite of six day work weeks and 10 – 14 hours working time, as you described before. To me this looks like you were exposed your entire life to people who said: yes this Professor Weinerth is doing a good job. May be we can use him for something else with his knowledge and love for research and even management. The BMFT for example had selected you, may be used you, to lead several other initiatives. Can you comment on those?
(HW) Yes, let us start. There were significant amounts of money flowing into semiconductor initiatives, which aimed at improving the German and European competitiveness, however without visible successes. The Nuclei were active in so many different directions, that a coordinating effort was overdue. I repeat, there was no central coordination. The Fraunhofer Foundation, the Max Planck Institutes, the University of Berlin have been concentration points, so were Aachen, Munich, Stuttgart. They were all autonomous activities which truly needed coordination. This was a real interesting task, dealing with the academics, specifically those who I have mentioned already, Engl, Ruge and then the next generation of Professors for example Heuberger or many others, Reichl and Goser who decided on the elements that should have been done, not really in line with Philips – Valvo, but in line with the aims of the BMFT. We together early on decided to go and work with the Industrial Institutions like VDI/VDE, BDI, BDA and the ZVEI in particular, just to make sure they would not through brakes on our running wheels and assist in increasing the awareness of the benefits of Microelectronics. This was the most time consuming effort, as we had to deal with their 140.000 members, a platform, which was even recognized by the media. My nine years on the Board of this organization have been really learning and also moved me into the
Presidents job of that group. Yes, this was an interesting time. Now to the side jobs, which I had, when I was also running SICAN, like the teaching at the Berlin University. Well the activities were overlapping, as I was no longer just teaching basics of electricity, but more the economic consequences of microelectronics. The contacts to the young people have sharpened my own views on how to accelerate the opportunities. This was sometimes hard to do, when I left my home in Hamburg in the early mornings, drove to Hannover to visit with my office and continued to go to Berlin over lunchtime to deliver my teaching in the afternoon and to discuss with my Berlin Associates my thesis and driving back to Hamburg to arrive at 2 AM.
(HGS) Yes that was….
(HW) I could really sympathize with Madelung and what he had experienced, when I started my education.
(HGS) This was actually very nice. I was about to say, that the miles you traveled were similar in distance, however for more than just three students.
(HW) No, for sure not. We had the support from the Berlin Universities and moved on very nicely. During the later years we experienced a good exchange during our practical work with feedback from our students to their teachers, much more intensive than during the early Semesters. Many of these people landed at SICAN, which was a very good side effect.
(HGS) You said it very nicely: all the people you had met during your business life were people who could motivate others with their teaching and obviously you yourself followed this philosophy, as you just confirmed that your teaching in Berlin made many people move to join SICAN to further their careers. That is normally only done, if people know that there is someone at the receiving end who enjoys what he is doing. The joy to work hard and discover new things has never left you. There was a next step in the early nineties, when the East opened.
(HW) Yes, this was an unforeseen event creating a side job for SICAN. We received the order from the BMFT to evaluate what kind of microelectronics activities were undertaken in the by then former “DDR”. In 1989 and the first years we still had to deal with the old structures of the DDR, sealed doors and many secrets. This lead to my appointment as Board member of THESYS in Erfurt, which was headed by Gert Lorenz to change the old “Kombinat Bauelemente”, which was a dramatically large enterprise which we had to restructure into something that could survive. This lead to the splitting off of entire streets, trucks, fire brigades, a Kindergarten and other things not required to make microelectronics. This had to be done in a very short time and was my first contact to a large Board in which everything needed to be regulated.
(HGS) This was surely a very interesting project which you had to accompany and there were also a very good management team and other board members, who were brought in. They understood what task was on hand to create a semiconductor company and how it was different to a well functioning Conglomerate with 25,000 employees, in which from a street sweep to a heart surgeon everyone was paid by the company (state). This would not work in a western world and needed to be restructured to its basic tasks, for which about 500 – if I remember the numbers right- would be sufficient.
(HW) Yes, about that, Yes
(HGS) To move this into the current status, grace to the hard work by the Board and the Management team, the company further restructured into “X-FAB”, a company which generates today 300 million Euro revenues and is very profitable, (HW) Yes.
(HGS) representing another very successful semiconductor story within the European Semiconductor history. Now let us look back again or did you want to add something ?
(HW) I was about to say that this engagement with Erfurt lead to the foundation of a sister company to SICAN, the MAZ at Erfurt, which moved to Jena, today a growing engineering company. The other thing we founded by SICAN was around the periphery of Berlin which has undergone some shrinking, however still exists today beside the large sister we build outside Hamburg. All these groups were closely intertwined.
(HGS) yes, success breeds success. There is a second story around Dresden, which was solved in a completely different way. The old companies were somewhat restructured however at the same time one spent big investment money to build brand new facilities
among them for AMD, one of the technologically most advanced Fabs worldwide. If you look back based upon what you know today, you have also assisted in moving more projects into life, which were under the hospice of VDE and VDI. Just to mention one European Project: “JESSI” (Joint European Semiconductor Initiative) Any comments from your side ?
(HW) Yes, JESSI was something special in the chain of pearls of government funded projects like the national MEGA project for LSI circuits. When JESSI was discussed, which took years, it became quickly very clear that its financial requirements could not be borne by Germany alone as well as implementing the required infrastructure. So contacts were made with France to address this jointly. This looked at first unthinkable due to the existing differences.
However it finally got off the ground and was much bigger than the MEGA project also involving for the first time an applications oriented element. The former programs were all
Technology driven with only little support from the electronics applications side. The JESSI program was the first which had the applications of the industrial world as center point in mind. This made France, the Netherlands and Germany sign a cooperative document, which carries my signature for the German side. This was a great change from the past. We were fighting day and night until we reached a certain consensus which lead to the activities in Grenoble, even involving later Italy. This left impressions behind for many more years.
(HGS) This means, if we look today, as we already alluded to, into the ranking inside the Semiconductor world during the seventies and compare that with today, there have been dramatic shifts. Can you say something to that and bring this into perspective to the activities in Grenoble for example ?
(HW) Yes. One should not forget that in the middle of the seventies until the end of the eighties the big fight was under way, who and what was the pacemaker of the industry.
Some believed in Memories and if one had opted for memories, these were D-RAMs or S-RAMs. SIEMENS put their money on D-RAMs, PHILIPS on S-RAMs, which gave instant reward to technology advancements, however never a return on investment. PHILIPS abandoned its program rather quick and hence the standings of the companies in the hierarchy were changing. The Japanese companies moved up and PHILIPS was the only European Company which made it into the top ten and had to undergo major efforts to stay between rank 7 and rank 10. If one compares that with Texas Instruments, which for many years was the undisputed leader in the industry and with the upswing of the memories disappeared from the leader board. Several of these newcomers have gone away again however it was SIEMENS, who grace to their Memories passed PHILIPS, however at a very high cost.
(HGS) Today we find European companies again among the top ten: ST-Microelectronics, Philips, the more European new company Freescale and Infineon is also knocking on the door to enter the top ten. This means that during the last 30 years where the industry underwent large changes, Europe has not completely lost out.
(HW) Yes, this can also clearly be seen in the balance towards Japan. In the seventies this was depressing for the Europeans and the pressure which was building. America was still diversified and accepted, where it was, as it was the inventor and has set the stages, however Japan with its centralized approached was a real surprise, without considering the price, which it had to pay later.
(HGS) Finally another look into the rear view mirror. If you could review all the significant things you have experienced, which two would you consider have been the most important to your career ?
(HW) Yes, to start at the tail end this was the entire development around SICAN. This was an entirely new experience. I have been in my business life mostly a part within larger companies. SICAN looked different. Money was made available, well wishes were expressed and I was told at which Bank the money was. That was it, except for many more people who felt that something like SICAN was a waist and held it up, whenever they could. That was a tough cut. Yes and then the move from Intermetall to the Philips Research Group. If one all of a sudden gets ejected that far to the front of technology developments from a manufacturing environment, without having been part of the developments so far, where PHILIPS is holding the basic patents to C-MOS technology, new grounds were laid out of which no one else in Europe could dream of.
(HGS) For everything you have done, Professor Weinerth, has anyone ever said: Thank you ?
The one thing is the money which one gets as reward for work. The other thing is true recognition. I am very happy to close this interview by pointing out a few things, which must matter to you: since 1990 you are honorary member of the VDI board and during 2004 you received the most prestigious Medal of Honor (Bundesverdienstkreuz) from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. I would also personally like to say: Thank you! There are a few things left, which we did not talk about today. Our professional lives have crossed ways a few times in the past and every time this was goal and solutions oriented and an outstanding time for me. I am grateful and wish you many more productive years, even though you officially decided to retire.
(HW) Thank you.