Let’s Meet Dr. Manuela Junghähnel: New Site Director at Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID

Two years ago, our Institute’s site in Moritzburg – the »All Silicon System Integration Dresden – ASSID« - was able to celebrate a decade of successful work. This year saw a change at the helm, with Dr. Manuela Junghähnel (MJ) taking over at the top. We are excited to have her with us! The career of the trained technical physicist shows that empathy and ambition can go and in hand.

Dr. Manuela Junghähnel
© Silvia Wolf
Dr. Manuela Junghähnel
Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID

MJ: Thanks so much for letting me introduce myself! One thing I genuinely believe is that life is not just about taking part, but about getting things moving. Daring things. Even as a young woman in this world of contrasts and differences, I decided to go into technology. My career has not been straightforward, but the straight and narrow path would not have gotten me to where I am today. I originally started with an apprenticeship as an industry power electronics technician in a steelworks. After that, I studied technical physics. But one thing always mattered to me as a learner: Self-determination in my research. After my studies, in the late 90s, Berlin and Brandenburg were not exactly promising for a career in my field. I had the option to leave my home and go west for e.g. one of the big names in the industry. But then I had the chance to start a job in Dresden, at Fraunhofer FEP. I loved this, especially because it developed from the former Manfred-von-Ardenne Institute, the only private research institute in the GDR, and because it had a long and excellent history in electron beam and plasma technology. At the time, plasma technology made a giant leap forward, and the scientists at Fraunhofer FEP were amazingly motivated and proud of the technologies they developed that were received so very well on the international scene. Being part of that team was an extremely exciting and interesting experience for me. In a sense, I got where I wanted to go, and I eventually spent almost 23 years at Fraunhofer FEP. I always had that wish and ambition to really contribute to what issues we would be pursuing in future and which areas we would be researching in. From my apprenticeship all the way up to today, I care about these aspects: Research, innovation, diversity, meaning, a life of contrasts and differences, and the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

You are no newcomer to leadership. Leading and guiding scientists in their career has already been part of your work. What makes you successful in that respect, and how can you get this to work at Dresden-Moritzburg as well?

MJ: I personally come from a culture of cooperation across structures. At heart, I am a networker. I love working in teams, and a team that is good and that works efficiently will also work successfully. I had success with that at Fraunhofer FEP: In my most recent role as department head, I was in charge of three very successful groups. Over time, however, I felt that the research and the scope of my work was too narrow. I wanted a new challenge, and right on time, there was this opportunity at Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID. At the same time I met my colleague, Dr. Wenke Weinreich from Fraunhofer IPMS. We are both now speakers for the class and both hope to do some good in Saxony in terms of 300mm wafer technologies. Wenke Weinreich manages the Fraunhofer IPMS-CNT site and is the Deputy Director of IPMS. Only recently, we had a chance to celebrate the formal opening of the new cleanrooms of the CNT and the 300mm Center for Advanced CMOS & Heterointegration.

If you want to know my recipe for success: Work has to have meaning. If you do not know or are not told what you do, what it is good for, and what you are responsible for, you cannot work with purpose, let alone with real success. You need to have the right atmosphere and culture and get a feeling for what motivates your people. In the end, successes are hardly ever down to single people, but to the team as a whole.

You have lots of experience in the field of wafer-level system integration, but also in many other areas as well. What would you consider particularly important for the next decade of the Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID story?

MJ: The current trends and activities in the field of microelectronics are extremely relevant for Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID. Protecting Europe’s place in electronics and ramping up chip production, not least with Saxony as a real hot spot: Those are issues that we want to be an active part in. Since the foundation of our part of the IZM a dozen years ago, lots has been invested in our facilities, but the semiconductor industry is working with cycles in which equipment can still be considered up to date that are far shorter than they are elsewhere. That means that we are always under pressure to have the right equipment and infrastructure to keep pace with the newest technologies and developments in the field. There is still a lot to do here, and I am committed to tackling this in the next few years: One, I want to keep our operations here safe and secure and continue to serve industry clients in particular, and two, I want to keep investing to put IZM-ASSID in the best possible place for its future. For instance, this means the trend towards high-density integration, greater precision, new materials, or new applications like high-performance or quantum computing. So, it’s about innovations and technologies for the packaging of the future.

Aside from that, we will continue to spend a lot of our work on industry projects, pilot production, up-scaling, or technology development because of record demand in the industry. The challenge is to have the right infrastructure and lab technology in place, and to get the ASSID team in a place where they can deliver their R&D service with real innovative spirit, reliability, and top quality. We need skilled people for that, and maintaining an attractive brand as an employer can be tough in Saxony, where you have major companies like Bosch, Infineon, and Globalfoundries competing for the same talent. It is about a stable pipeline of highly specialized and excellent professionals who really identify with Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID, and it is about a leadership team that works with the right sense of responsibility. I see my group leaders and myself as department head as such a strong leadership team. I believe in agile work and leadership with a culture of ownership that lets all people work and contribute autonomously, but responsibly. This will mean that the culture at IZM-ASSID will evolve.

The question has to be which values you commit to and how much you trust your people. In my experience, people are more motivated when you trust them to be responsible and when you make them feel that they can depend on each other. That is essential for productive cooperation.

You are a team player, but one that is in charge. What are your strategic goals for your site?

MJ: To keep growing, definitely. My predecessor Jürgen Wolf has made IZM-ASSID into a very successful and internationally renowned part of our institute. We have become something of a beacon for the business of system integration, but we are also starting to outgrow our facilities, both in terms of our processing line and our offices. Our second site at Fraunhofer IPMS-CNT helps, also with a view to cooperation across institutes. We are bundling our competences and tapping into synergies in the area of 300mm wafer technologies, which allows us to offer our clients an even better choice of R&D services.

We have 900 square meters of cleanroom space at the site, and we already have an investment concept worked out for things we need to do urgently to live up to the current and future standards. We need them to provide suitable R&D services in a pilot line and cover several strategically important issues, like high-performance or quantum computing on the side of 300mm wafer-level system integration. That is also how I personally see Fraunhofer’s purpose: Developing, testing, optimizing, and producing small batches of products for our industry clients. With the expansion of IZM-ASSID, we will be able to do so even better, not least with our highly precise bonding tools or our lithography and PVD equipment or our means for testing new materials. If you ask me about the USP of us at IZM-ASSID, it would be the ability to develop packaging technologies for 300mm wafers.

Your launch of the Center for Advanced CMOS & Heterointegration Saxony was one well-known highlight. How exactly with Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID be part of that and benefit from it?

MJ: Both partners bring in specific competences: We at IZM-ASSID are the 300mm specialists for the backend processing concerning wafer system integration, assembly, bonding, 3D integration, TSVs or interconnects formation. But there are other processes further up the line that Fraunhofer IPMS-CNT are the real experts for. For instance, there is active components, energy-efficient and non-volatile memory and more. Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID and IPMS-CNT – that is two unique R&D organizations in microelectronics in Germany. The center is bringing together our R&D work with 300mm wafer industry standard equipment and our competences for front and backend technologies and wafer-level system integration. It’s the complete value chain. Both organizations have already been cooperating in projects for many years. The formal opening and work at the center is just one more step, but the right and sensible step for us.

You were already Deputy Director at your site for more than a year now. What is your take-away so far – not least about the research successes of your predecessor Jürgen Wolf?

MJ: One thing to mention is the long-term cooperation with our partners: People know that they can rely on Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID to deliver high-quality, fit-for-purpose results. We are committed to keeping that reputation intact. What we can still work on is the visibility of our scientific prowess at IZM-ASSID. We are thinking about concepts that can make it clearer exactly where we can offer scientific excellence. To do that, we will be reinforcing our partnerships with the universities, especially the Technical University of Dresden. There are already plans in place to bring more young talent on board. For instance, that is about providing opportunities and supervision for degree research. For us, that is not an add-on, but a core feature, because it helps us expand our scope and offer our customers even more technical innovations going forward.

Concerning doctorate research, I would love to be able to employ one aspiring doctor every year in some sort of continual pipeline. We may have to adjust some aspects of our organization and put in place a good basis to keep our people on top of their game, methodologically and scientifically.

But you’ve been with Fraunhofer for far longer than this one year. What makes you excited about the Fraunhofer brand? Why should young scientists come and join us?

MJ: For me, it is one thing above all: The creative freedom you have with Fraunhofer. Fraunhofer is a high-profile brand that is known around the world and that stands for scientific competence and excellence. And Fraunhofer is a modern employer with attractive conditions for the people working here. The work itself is different every day, but always something to get excited about. You can develop and grow as a professional and have lots of autonomy at work. Fraunhofer offers you a great choice of career options on many different levels. And our research work is meant for real-life practice, not for dry theory. The Fraunhofer Society is extremely innovative in general. Many industry projects are developed for immediate use in actual projects. And training and education for young professionals is a definite part of the Fraunhofer brand. Even if some people move on after their apprenticeships or degrees and do not stay employed with us, that usually does not sever the links. So often, it’s a basis for future cooperation or for projects with industry partners. I have personally had some great experiences in that regard.

Let’s leave aside the science executive with international clients, a busy calendar, and urgent deadlines for a moment: What about your own research work, and what do you do to recharge your batteries?

MJ: Right now, I am not pursuing any research myself, but I’m still active in my network and my old research fields. What I am personally thinking about a lot now is how I can contribute my competences in plasma, thin, or flexible glass technologies. My idea is to check how the processes happening in that area could be linked up more with the activities at IZM. And we are already thinking about some ideas that we could integrate into future projects.

But beyond that, it’s all about family for me and I just love when we all come together around the table at home and everybody speaks about their day. And my circle of friends is great source of balance for me. Reading, too, when I find the time. I’m an art and culture lover, I love classical music, meeting friends for dinner, or – especially now when it’s hot – going out to a Biergarten.

One more thing I want to add: I want to see more women in executive roles. That matters a lot to me, and I am actively advocating for that in several professional networks. I would be so happy if more women had the courage to take on that responsibility. Because it needs a little bit of courage.

A world of contrasts, in a way. Thanks for your time, and we are looking forward to hearing more about your exciting research in Dresden.

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