Silicon Wars: The Middle East Takes on Asia

Abu Dhabi is investing a whole lot of cash into a new chip manufacturing facility. Is this a sign of things to come?

China, Taiwan, and South Korea may be in store for a little competition with the news that Abu Dhabi plans to invest between six and seven billion dollars in a state-of-the art chip manufacturing facility. It should open around 2014, and it would be the country's first. The government-owned Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC) has already purchased a $1.8 billion chip manufacturer in Singapore in conjunction with Globalfoundries, the world's third largest chip maker, which will operate the new plant.

Both moves show the United Arab Emirates is serious about making its name known in the semiconductor world. “We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this industry. It was a difficult decision as there’s already leadership in place in places like Taiwan, South Korea, and China is also being very aggressive,” ATIC CEO, Ibrahim Ajami, told the Wall Street Journal.

The UAE has certainly made its name known already in the world of oil and construction, but additional sectors are sprouting up in the region. Its equally rich neighbor, Qatar, wants to be an education capital, with branches of Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, and Cornell already established there.

But for Abu Dhabi, semiconductors may just be where it's at. “We thought that given our location, our ability to play along capital-intensive, energy-intensive sectors, this industry made a ton of sense,” Ajami said. Watch your back, Asia.

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