Chris Angelini: As many of you know, Tom's Hardware is an international organization. We have teams of writers in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia, and France. Last year, our friends based in Paris had the opportunity to visit STMicroelectronics' factory in Rennes. The following story recounts their experience learning about the company's history, its current projects, and future aspirations. Their nationalism shines through, but they think they have something to be proud of in STMicro's achievements. We welcome you to read on.
"French factory," they say, is almost an oxymoron. When was the last time you saw a news story about the success of a manufacturing plant in the land of Beaujolais and Brie? I won’t even ask for the last time you heard about a semiconductor fab operating in France that’s actually hiring because it continues to meet a growing demand and manages to stay competitive. The poor overall economic picture and pessimistic approach newspapers like to take in speaking of the electronics industry in France would lead you to think that that scenario is utopian at best.
So, imagine our surprise when a source told us the STMicroelectronics plant in Rennes was recruiting. Don’t get us wrong. We believe firmly in French and European expertise, of which innovators like Crocus Technology, SOITEC, and STMicroelectronics are proof. But a French semiconductor plant that’s not moving offshore and is actually hiring in the middle of an economic crisis? We decided we had to investigate. Lo and behold, not only is the story true, but the site in question recently made news because its circuits were built into Curiosity, the robot rover that landed on Mars.
So we sat down with Patrick Galloy, CEO of STMicroelectronics Tours SAS. He heads the Rennes site as well as the plant in Tours, which employs 1500 people. He was joined by Jean-François Vadrot, manager of the High-Reliability Aerospace Products Business Unit. STMicroelectronics is a French-Italian semiconductor company with a broad catalog of products, including everything from SoC (System-on-Chip) solutions to Digital Signal processors (DSPs) and components for the consumer electronics, automotive, and many other markets. But it's known on Tom's Hardware largely for its MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems).
Between them, the two men have 30 years of experience in the French semiconductor world. They direct one of the sites that’s less well-known to the general public and yet shows significant growth in a niche market for components used in aerospace applications. They agreed to answer our questions about the business line that is responsible for the Rennes plant’s current success, and they also opened their doors to our cameras. What follows is mainly drawn from that conversation. We decided not to print the entire interview, but instead to give you a history of the site, the development of its aerospace-high reliability components business, the challenges such an operation faces, and the plant’s future outlook. It’s no fairy tale, but it is a story that deserves to be told.