Prof. Dr. Amelie Hagelauer
Hans-Jürgen Schmitz, Martin Wolczyk / Adobe Firefly (Composing)
2024-01-01 VDE dialog

“In service of innovation”

Hidden electronics: How does the VDE/VDI Society of Microelectronics, Microsystems and Precision Engineering make its work visible, despite working with the tiniest components? We asked its deputy chair, Prof. Dr. Amelie Hagelauer. After all, not much works without microchips these days!

What is the GMM?

The GMM is a society of specialists supported by both VDE and VDI. It works on the topics of microelectronics, microsystems and precision engineering. We’re a community of experts who stand for collaboration and international networking in service of innovation.

How did the GMM come to be founded?

The GMM has only existed since 1996, but its two predecessors – the Society of Microelectronics and the Society of Microtechnology and Precision Engineering – go back much further. Such names are, of course, always a product of their time. In the 1990s, microsystem technology was the hot topic. These days, I’d say there’s not very much distinction among all these things anymore. Most of our work falls under the label of microelectronics.

Video interview with Prof. Dr. Amelie Hagelauer

2023-12-18 Video

“Study electrical engineering, microelectronics and microsystem technology! The world will be your oyster.”

Watch video

What does your society focus on?

We’ve done a lot in the past to help the public and politicians understand microelectronics – with events, brochures, strategy papers and so on. In particular, this has included the position papers on “hidden electronics” that we've published together with another VDE society, VDE ITG. We can certainly take some credit for the fact that microelectronics is so high on the political agenda these days, as the billions of euros in related funding programs reflect. Of course, it would be an exaggeration to say that the European Chips Act was all down to us. I do think we played a significant role in the European Commission putting this policy package together, though. The aim is to tackle the supply difficulties in semiconductors and increase their production in Europe.

But isn’t it much too late for that?

During the COVID pandemic, we realized how dependent we are on the world market. For a long time, the automotive industry here was at a standstill, all because some chips weren’t available from the Far East. We warned of such scenarios early on. And it’s true, of course: this could all have been avoided if our country and economy had taken the topic more seriously and reacted more quickly.

What are the main topics on the GMM’s agenda today?

We’re mainly concerned with technological sovereignty and security of supply. “Invented in Germany” is all well and good as a tagline, and there’s certainly more to do here. That said, “Made in Germany” and “Made in Europe” are important, too.

Besides that, we – like the rest of our industry – are obviously thinking about all the other topics of our time. We have to make the energy transition happen. We have to switch to e-mobility. We have to implement the digital transformation and face up to the challenge of artificial intelligence. All these areas and more are fields where microelectronics can be applied.

The shortage of skilled workers is an issue here, isn’t it?

The lack of young people is certainly the biggest problem for the whole industry. With the challenges we’re facing, we’re going to need more and more specialists in electrical engineering in general, and in microelectronics in particular. Yet student numbers keep falling. We have to do something about that and start getting young people interested in technology-related topics again.

What’s your message to young people?

Study electrical engineering, microelectronics and microsystems technology! Or mechatronics – that was my subject. The opportunities these courses offer are enormous, and the doors open to you when you graduate are even bigger. The world will be your oyster. And above all: you’ll be able to actively shape the world and your own future.

The GMM is one of five specialist organizations under the umbrella of VDE. What are the advantages of this structure in your view?

Its specialist societies bring a lot of expertise and scientific understanding to VDE. That reflects well on the reputation of every single scientist who gets involved with one of these organizations, as well. As a society, we also benefit hugely from VDE, of course. Not least because it allows us to cooperate very closely with other specialist organizations under the VDE umbrella.

In other words, sharing ideas with other specialist societies is essential for you?

Microelectronics isn’t an end in itself. It’s always about the application – about solving something. That’s where the other specialist societies, such as the ITG, ETG and DGMBT, come in. That means for us, talking to each other and giving each other ideas really is central. Ultimately, we depend on other people’s applications; but we’re the “enablers” who make what they do possible.

VDE wants to shape the “e-dialistic future”. What role could the GMM play here?

There will be no e-dialistic future without microelectronics. Our chips might be tiny, but their importance is huge. We saw that when there were supply shortages during the pandemic. In the all electric society of the future, microelectronics will become even more important.

Interview by Martin Schmitz-Kuhl

Since 2021, Prof. Amelie Hagelauer has been the director of Fraunhofer EMFT, Munich, and the chair of Micro- and Nanosystems Engineering at the Technical University of Munich. At the beginning of 2023, she also became deputy chair of the GMM.

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