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‘Silicon Saxony’ aims to build platform for ‘next-generation’ automotive electronics and sensor technology


A consortium of seven technology networks with a total of 200 companies and research facilities have joined forces in the Federal State of Saxony, in Germany, with the objective of developing new sensor technology concepts and launching them on the market.

Spanning various industrial branches and technologies, the focus of the initiative will, for example, be on applications for self-driving passenger cars, lorries, buses, and trains, for the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles in mechanical engineering, and for medical engineering.

The consortium says Saxony is “unique throughout Europe”, and is an Innovation cluster for automotive electronics and sensor technology systems. 

Saxony’s industrial clusters for the sectors mobility, microelectronics / ICT, aerospace technology, rail technology as well as mechanical engineering and medical engineering will pool their competencies in a new innovation cluster in order to develop, for example, an automotive electronics and sensor technology platform for pioneering mobility applications.

In the future, conventional cars and autonomous vehicles with electric drives will need “intelligent sensors”, say the people behind the consortium.

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Infineon Technologies facility in Dresden, Germany. © Infineon

Dirk Vogel, network manager from the Network of Automotive Suppliers Saxony and responsible for the implementation of SenSa, says: “The ‘Sensor Saxony’ (SenSa) platform no longer just revolves around sensor technologies for cars in conjunction with autonomous driving and the challenges posed by electric mobility. Instead, the focus is on establishing an efficient and effective value creation network.

“With SenSa, we’re creating a network of competencies and expertise that is unique in Europe and takes the latest technological trends in mobility into account as well as the radically changing procurement strategies of the large automobile manufacturers around the globe.”

The consortium focuses on solutions for the higher integration of sensor technology in conjunction with new materials/lightweight construction not only in the automobile industry, but also in the rail and aerospace industries.

The technology enterprises in Saxony seek to develop sensor solutions for the mobility of the next generation and beyond – and want to successfully promote these solutions on global markets.

Saxony is evolving from being an automobile location into a venue for electronics-based mobility
every third chip manufactured in Europe said to be made in ”Silicon Saxony”.

Frank Bösenberg, managing director of the Silicon Saxony Management Corporation, says: “Saxony is the fifth largest venue for microelectronics and chip production around the entire globe.”

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Panel discussion about Silicon Saxony

Silicon Saxony is Europe’s largest location for the development and production of semiconductor, IoT, and software solutions.

The leading companies Infineon, GlobalFoundries, as well as X-Fab, and Renesas already manufacture in Saxony semiconductors specifically for automobile applications.

While GlobalFoundries focuses on inexpensive, energy-efficient 22 nm chips based on its FDSOI technology, Infineon is geared towards power semiconductors which are needed, for example, in engine control systems.

X-Fab and Renesas manufacture analogue, mixed-signal chips which are used, for example, for controlling sensors in cars.

Bösenberg says: “Starting in 2021, this technology expertise in Saxony will be complemented by the new MEMS production of Bosch whose products are also built into intelligent vehicles.

“With its investment of more than one billion euros into the business venue Saxony, a semiconductor company is once again building a new factory in Europe after almost 20 years. This aptly demonstrates the enormous significance of chips for e-mobility and autonomous driving.”

But the federal state in south-eastern Germany is not only Europe’s leading microelectronics / ICT cluster with specific competencies in the sectors software, hardware, and connectivity (5G).

In “Autoland Saxony”, such renowned automobile manufacturers as Volkswagen, BMW, and Porsche produce most of their pioneering and high-end models.

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Vogel says: “Every eighth car built in Germany comes from Saxony. Likewise, Saxony’s mobility industry has become a driving force of innovation which specializes in electric mobility as well as lightweight construction for the transport sector (rail, aerospace, automotive) where it has also established itself as a global leader.”

In the wake of the changes in the global mobility industry (electric mobility, autonomous driving, and so on, sophisticated and mature electronics and sensor technology as well as successfully mastered lightweight solutions play a decisive role in the worldwide competition.

All these competencies can be found in Saxony at the highest possible level – with a smart mix of manufacturing enterprises, excellent research institutions, vibrant industrial networks along a with constantly increasing start-up activities in the high-tech sector.

Saxony‘s companies are looking to co-operate with counterparts overseas, including the British transport industry.

The United Kingdom – the third most important export partner for Saxony’s industry – has a globally active mobility branch. Both the development and production of cars as well as the aviation and space sector are important and successful industrial branches on the British Isles.

After the Brexit, Saxony’s companies want to maintain successful cooperative relationships and establish new ones with British firms.

In early October 2018, stakeholders from Saxony’s technology sectors successfully presented themselves in the UK and established new contacts for cooperation with firms active in the UK, for example, from the mobility and electronics branches.

For 2019, further activities are scheduled to help expand the Saxon-British economic relationship so that the cooperation with partners from the British mobility industries is intensified.

The participants will also include representatives from the Saxon sensor technology platform SenSa, with the objective of tapping the potential of joint research and innovation projects.

The UK industry will be able to use innovations “Made in Saxony” in order to maintain its competitiveness on the global market or even gain a competitive edge.

An active supporter of these market development measures is also the Saxony Economic Development Corporation (WFS), the first contact point for interested British partners.

The Saxony Economic Development Corporation also accompanies and assists the innovation cluster SenSa with open innovation formats.

Already at the end of November 2018, the first project workshop “Sensor Technology” will be held to discuss ideas and projects for new products and services and to inspire commercial enterprises as well as research institutes for joint projects.

Thomas Horn, managing director of the Saxony Economic Development Corporation, says: “We’re pursuing the objective of tapping the innovative potentials of the Saxony’s industrial and research facilities, exploring opportunities for cooperation with interregional partners at an interdisciplinary level, and helping new products to enter the global market.”