Economic Outlook and New Models of R&D Efficiency Debated at SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium 2012

SAN JOSE, Calif. — January 18, 2012 — How the semiconductor industry will solve the “triple threat” of EUV lithography, new 3D device structures and 450mm wafer size transition were among the key subjects explored during the 35th annual SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) in Half Moon Bay, Calif.  The theme of the conference was  “Process to Profit: New Dimensions of Growth in the Semiconductor Industry.”  During the first two days of ISS, economists and industry analysts presented contrasting views of global economic and industry forecasts and their implications on the semiconductor supply chain, while industry leaders presented the current status of the immense technological and economic challenges to continued scaling and 450mm wafer development.  

William Holt, senior VP and GM at Intel, presented a positive outlook on the challenges and opportunities for continued scaling using the industry’s successful track-record of overcoming technical barriers as a good indicator of future success.  Opportunities in new device structures with FinFETS, nanowires, and tube-based devices; opportunities in materials with III V’s and germanium; and opportunities in device density by “rethinking interconnect” all promise paths toward a continuation of Moore’s Law through the decade.  “The innovation pipeline is full for the next ten years,” he said.

Bernard S. Meyerson, an IBM Fellow and VP at IBM, discussed how scaling has created new problems to overcome beyond patterning such as leakage and mobility that only massive R&D spending can overcome.  In the future, graphene, carbon nanotubes, and photonics may be used in future device solutions. Meyerson also discussed how IBM researchers have demonstrated how only 12 atoms can be used to stably store a bit. 

While vertical device structures, new material sets, and still-challenging EUV and 3D IC present unprecedented technical challenges and R&D costs on both suppliers and device manufacturers, the compound effect of 450mm wafer transition generated divergent opinions about the need for R&D efficiency and “new models” of industry collaboration. 

Stephen G. Newberry, vice chairman of the Board, Lam Research Corporation, revisited his “Profitless Prosperity” presentation from ISS 2008 to examine new ways the industry could work together to realize the benefits of research and development including that for 450mm wafers.  Offering the automotive industry model— where the industry has been able to raise prices for improved features and performance, and a few key suppliers embark on critical R&D efforts jointly-funded by manufacturers— Newberry emphasized the need for new ways for the industry to accelerate innovation, improve R&D efficiency, and speed time-to-market.

Michael R. Splinter, chairman and CEO, Applied Materials, also emphasized the need for “collaboration, coordination and consolidation” to solve the nexus of technical and economic challenges facing the industry. 

Reinforcing the need for greater industry collaboration and new R&D models were presentations by Tim Hendry, Intel VP and director of Fab Material Operations who discussed Intel’s growing joint-development activities in materials, and David Lazokvsky, president and CEO of Intermolecular, who presented case studies of new collaboration methods and models— in NAND flash development with SanDisk and Toshiba.

The 450 issue was further explored in a panel discussion moderated by G. Dan Hutcheson, chairman and CEO of VLSI Research.  John Chen, VP of Technology for Nvidia, voiced a strong need for 450 with data indicating “scaling is not driving cost like it used to…effective wafer costs are increasing at every node.” Paolo Gargini, director of Technology Strategy at Intel, sees the new Global 450 Consortium as a catalyst for new industry collaboration, saying, “This is going to be coordinated effort.  The level of communication must go to a higher level.”  Randir Thakur, executive VP and general manager of Applied Materials Silicon Systems Group, cited concerns about the health of his suppliers saying, “the whole infrastructure needs to be ready.”  Kazuo Ushida, president of Precision Equipment for Nikon, believes the technical challenges can be solved— even across multiple products and wavelengths— but it remains a complex economic problem. 

Virtually all presenters and panelists and panelist emphasized the critical need for synchronized timing on 450 deployment to avert the mistakes of the 300mm wafer transition of the last decade.  Many of the speakers believed that EUV lithography issues need to be resolved first.  James Koonmen, senior VP at ASML and GM at Brion, discussed the roadmap for EUV industrialization.  While six pre-production machines have been shipped and progress is being made with two suppliers for the essential power source, EUV productivity is still “a factor of 5 to 10 from where we want to be.”  At this time, ASML is not committed to 450 until after full productivity goals for EUV are met. He also called on the need for joint R&D solutions to fund 450 development.

Complicating the technology challenges and wafer transition questions were conflicting economic outlooks presented by industry economists and analysts.  Duncan Meldrum from IHS called a 2012 “a year of uncertainty.”  Robert Fry, senior economist at DuPont, noted that every economy is flat or no growth except China.  He sees a recession in Europe and slow economic growth in the U.S.  David Townes, managing director of Needham & Company, sees a potential global economic crisis as “we are past the tipping point in liabilities…the macro conditions for future real capital appreciation is dire.”  All economic speakers noted the extreme uncertainty on European debt and its uncertainty on the global economy.

While the industry faces uncertainty on the global economy and transition to new technologies, the strong, long-term demand for semiconductors that underpin the industry remains strong.  A panel on cloud computing emphasized we are at the beginning phase of an enormous growth trends toward integrated mobile computing enabled by smart phones and massive data centers.  The smart grid will likely be upgraded with pervasive chip-controlled monitoring and control devices.  Reports from the recent 2012 Consumer Electronics Show also showcased an array of devices and applications that will further drive chip demand in the coming decades for both developed economies and billions of new consumers entering the middle class in the developing world.

About SEMI

SEMI is the global industry association serving the nano- and microelectronics manufacturing supply chains. SEMI member companies are the engine of the future, enabling smarter, faster and more economical products that improve our lives. Since 1970, SEMI has been committed to helping members grow more profitably, create new markets and meet common industry challenges. SEMI maintains offices in Beijing, Bengaluru, Berlin, Brussels, Grenoble, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.semi.org.

Association Contact

Deborah Geiger/SEMI
Email: dgeiger@semi.org
Phone: 408.943.7988

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