Israel Inside: A history of Intel's R&D in Israel

Israel Inside: A history of Intel's R&D in Israel

Summary: Intel is Israel's biggest private-sector employer and has been behind some of its best-known projects, from the Pentium M to Cloverview.

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There are dozens of multinationals with development centres in Israel, but no company has embraced the idea of Israeli-based R&D more than Intel.

With four design centres and two fabrication plants, Intel is Israel's largest private-sector employer, with about 8,000 direct workers. As the biggest tech company in Israel, it is responsible for much of the country's hi-tech ecosystem, with one out of every 10 people in tech working either directly or peripherally for projects associated with Intel.

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Intel's R&D center in Haifa, Israel (Image credit: Intel)

Operating in Israel since 1974, some of Israel's most important products were conceived, designed, and manufactured in Israel, according to Rony Friedman, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Development Group (IADGz).

"Intel Israel's biggest contribution has been in the development of microprocessors, which are being used in a wide variety of products, for desktop, mobile, and workstation solutions," says Friedman. "We also do work on connectivity products and security technologies here, as well as development of digital devices."

Among the technologies recently worked on by the Israeli team are Cedarview, Intel's new processor for netbooks, and Cloverview, the processor that will be used in the new Windows 8 tablets due later this year.

Intel stars

The first Intel product to put Israel "on the map", says Friedman, was Banias, better known as the Pentium M microprocessor, the microprocessor introduced in 2003 that arguably kicked off the notebook era.

Another important product that, like Banias, was conceived, designed, directed and manufactured in Israel, was Merom, the Core-2 notebook processor heir of the Pentium M. Introduced in 2006, Merom was the first Intel technology to produce a microprocessor for mobile, desktop, and server products, according to Friedman. "Merom especially helped boost Intel's stature in the server market," Friedman says.

And of course, there are the current Intel stars: the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge family of processors, all designed, manufactured, and managed by the Israel team.

At a recent press conference, Intel revealed that Sandy Bridge was responsible for 40 percent of the company's sales worldwide in 2011.

Upcoming projects

The more complicated products get, the more likely it is that teams from around the Intel world — notably the US and India, as well as Israel — will be working on products together, Friedman says.

That appears to be the case with the upcoming Haswell processors: though they were largely designed in the US, the 22nm tri-gate 3D transistors inside them (and which are already in use in Ivy Bridge processors) are made in Israel, at Kiryat Gat's Fab 28 plant.

"Within five years all of the human senses will be in computers, and in 10 years we will have more transistors in one chip than neurons in the human brain" — Mooly Eden

And, although it appears that Intel is prepping its fab in Ireland to manufacture its next-generation 14nm transistors, there will be plenty of action for Intel Israel, both in development and manufacturing.

"We have numerous future technologies that we are already working on in Israel, although of course I can't discuss them, since they haven't been announced," says Friedman.

Some of those technologies could include enhancing video streaming — building on the Intel WiDi (wireless display) technology developed by Intel Israel; enhanced connectivity using Thunderbolt (or other connectivity technologies), also largely developed in Israel; and enhancements to Intel's security software (Intel's IPT — Identity Protection Technology — was developed in Israel).

It could even include new areas that Intel is apparently exploring, based on recent acquisitions, such as that of navigation software maker Telmap — one of several Israeli start-ups that Intel has snapped up in recent years.

Computational intelligence

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Intel's Rony Friedman

Or, perhaps, development could focus on the new field of computational intelligence, defining interactions between humans and computers.

In May, Intel announced that it was establishing the Collaborative Research Institute for Computational Intelligence in Israel, focusing on applying machine learning, brain-inspired computation and advanced computer architecture to software.

"Within five years all of the human senses will be in computers, and in 10 years we will have more transistors in one chip than neurons in the human brain," says Mooly Eden, president of Intel Israel. "The expectations from the Institute for Computational Intelligence is that it will provide a leap forward in research and in ideas that will be translated into products and applications."

Whatever the future brings for Intel, its Israel facilities will remain a large part of the company's strategy, according to Friedman: "If Intel had had any doubts about Israel, whether financial, personnel-oriented, or security-oriented, they would not have continued to build the company's relationship with Israel."

Topics: Intel, Emerging Tech, Processors

David Shamah

About David Shamah

David Shamah has been writing about Israeli technology news for over a decade, both in print and on the web, and knows the Israeli tech scene and its start-ups inside out.

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