From Nora Miethke & Sven Heitkamp
Christian Römlein points to a circular 300-millimeter wafer from which microchips are made, explaining exactly what his company does. Up to 200 times, he says, the fine silicon wafers have to be painted, coated, exposed and cleaned again until the structures for the microchips are in place. "In this process, we replace the conventional aggressive solvents with a water-based, easily degradable cleaning fluid that is also much more efficient," says the CEO and managing partner of Intelligent Fluids, a young, growing Leipzig Biotech company. "Our fluids help save a large amount of CO2 emissions, energy costs and consumables in industrial cleaning."
The intelligent special cleaners could be used in many areas thanks to different formulations. So far, microelectronics has been one of the company's main areas of business, and the Leipzig-based company's expectations of the planned semiconductor factory of the Taiwanese chip giant are correspondingly high. TSMC in Dresden. "That will potentially be a big customer for us," says Römlein. Infineon in Dresden is already using the resources today, and the Intel Group, which is building a huge plant in Magdeburg, already has wafers in house to conduct test series with.
However, Taiwan plays a special role in Intelligent Fluids' planned future expansion. With STC as part of the Qisda Group, a Taiwanese technology group has held a two percent stake in the Leipzig-based company for years. The first international production facility could also be built in the island state, if there is no invasion by China, as the growing escalation in the conflict currently leads one to fear.
Regardless of this, Intelligent Fluids is now participating with the "Silicon Saxony" network and eight other companies in "Semicon Taiwan" in Taipei, one of the largest semiconductor trade fairs in Asia. The companies - among them the Dresden-based industrial plant manufacturer Deaxo - want to present themselves from September 6 to 8 with a large booth in the heart of the fair. The Leipzig-based company already has its first customers in the republic, which supplies the world with semiconductors. And more are to come.
In any case, the course has been clearly set for growth since this year: The company received ten million euros in financing from the American sustainability fund Wave Equity Partners to drive the international expansion of the company. The American investors, who focus on green innovations for global markets, had previously spent a year putting the company through its paces before making their decision. Now Praveen Sahay, president of the U.S. fund, says: "We are thrilled to have added intelligent fluids, a pearl of German engineering, to our portfolio and, with our massive support, forecast the company's impressive development in the coming years." In addition, existing investors - Hightech-Gründerfonds HTGF and IBG Beteiligungsgesellschaft Sachsen-Anhalt - have also increased their investments.
"We want to use the money primarily to expand the team and build up international sales structures, production sites and laboratories," says Römlein. At the same time, new markets such as maintenance, oil and gas are to be conquered. Further locations are now planned in Asia, the USA, the Middle East and India, he adds. In addition, two new sales partners in Europe are to ensure new sales markets and major orders. By 2030, Intelligent fluids wants to write up to 300 million euros in sales. An IPO, says Römlein, is also a distinct possibility in the future.
For almost 18 years, the company has been developing its patented special cleaners and producing them in its own plant in Leuna. Well-known customers include technology companies such as Philipps, Heidelberger Druck and Würth. Shoe manufacturer Bama sells a sneaker cleaner made by Intelligent Fluids, and Scandinavian garden center chain Plantasjen sells several cleaners. This year, the company, which currently has 25 employees, will make 2.5 million euros in sales, Römlein estimates. That would be an increase of about 50 percent over the previous year.
The various special fluids developed by the young, multi-award-winning company would create a kind of microquake on the surfaces to be cleaned at up to 8,000 movements per second, physically lifting off unwanted layers of paint and dirt. The process is said to be significantly more effective and gentle than conventional "chemical maces" used by large corporations. The deep-tech company has already won the Global Green Product Award and the European Business Hero Award for sustainability for its innovations. Now, with American and Taiwanese support, it is set to conquer the world's markets.
DAS from Dresden also present in Taipei
Intelligent fluids and Deaxo are the two truly Saxon companies that will be presenting themselves at the joint "German Pavilion" stand.
On the other hand, DAS Environmental Expert GmbH and Fabmatics from Dresden will be represented in Taipei with their own booth each. "For us, Taiwan is the largest sales region and we naturally use the trade fair to talk to our customers about their sustainability strategy and new projects. This year, we are focusing on the reduction of greenhouse gases such as CF4/tetrafluoromethane," says Managing Director Rene Reichardt, who is also a member of the board of Silicon Saxony e.V.. DAS says it has been active in Taiwan since 1997 and employs more than 300 people in the region, primarily in customer support.
Reichardt sees TSMC's relocation as a big win for the supplier industry. "It strengthens the opportunity to work together on innovations," he says. Together with investments by other semiconductor companies, this will make eastern Germany the most important microchip region in Europe. But of course it will also increase competition for skilled workers, the DAS boss is certain.