The year ahead: A time for innovation

Technology-driven growth is still possible in the current downturn, according to SST‘s poll of executives from across the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain. Even during an economic slump, they remain optimistic about two things: the continuing need to innovate, and the ineveitable upturn.

Perhaps it is from decades of riding the notoriously cyclical roller coaster that is the semiconductor industry, but most of the executives from the supplier community that contributed their perspectives for this forecast issue believe that within chaos lies opportunity.

The semiconductor industry is getting battered; a one-two punch from a naturally occurring down cycle combined with an unprecedented global financial crisis. Increasingly skittish consumers are not buying electronics with the usual gusto, and semiconductor demand is down. Chipmakers have put most capital expenditures on hold and are aggressively looking to reduce operating costs. It is likely that R&D expenditures will also be impacted, although it is not yet clear by how much.

What’s striking across all the perspectives from executives across the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain — which we’ve arranged by themes of Business Strategies,” Game-Changers,” and Technology Buys — is how optimistic they all are about two things: first, the semiconductor industry’s need to continue to innovate, even during a recession; and second, the inevitable upturn. Indeed, the silver lining of this downcycle-combined-with-unprecedented-global-financial-crisis is that it provides a time to regroup, rethink, and yes, even invest. The worst thing to do during these difficult times is “batten down the hatches.” Instead, companies should be looking for ways to innovate and continue R&D so that when the recovery comes — and yes, it will come — they will be in a strong competitive position. It is a time to find ways to more closely collaborate with customers and other companies to conduct R&D in the most cost-effective manner, improve efficiency and, of course, reduce costs.

When will the upturn come? Optimists say it could be as soon as mid-2009, but realistically, it’s sounding more like sometime in 2010. In the meantime, there are definitely hot spots of opportunity: high-brightness LEDs, 3D integration and through-silicon-vias and, of course, solar. (And even we at SST are keeping up with the Joneses, by launching a new magazine, Photovoltaics World.) — Peter Singer, Editor-in-Chief, Solid State Technology


1. “Leverage strong cash position with leading-edge technology for continued growth,” Arthur W. Zafiropoulo, Chairman & CEO, Ultratech, Inc., San Jose, CA USA
2. “This is not your father”s semiconductor cycle,” Bob Akins, co-founder/CEO, Cymer, San Diego, CA USA
3. “Improving R&D ROI in a downturn,” Tony Chiang, CTO, Intermolecular Inc., San Jose, CA USA
4. “Restructuring: a prelude to growth,” Nick Konikaris, President & CEO, ESI, Portland, OR USA
5. “Is the past a prologue for this cycle?,” Franklin Kalk, Toppan Photomasks Inc.. Round Rock, TX USA
6. “Vertical integration in materials needed to deliver a more attractive COO model,” Geoff Irvine, Director, Commercial Development & Marketing, SAFC Hitech, St. Louis, MO USA
7. “Challenging market conditions for 2009,” Mike Allison, Managing Director, Semiconductor, FPD and Solar, Edwards, Crawley, UK
8. “For long-term stability, embrace a more aggressive outsourcing model,” Larry Dulmage, co-founder, VP Sales and Marketing, Crossing Automation, Mountain View, CA USA
9. “Tough times require cost control and advanced technology,” Bill Bintz, SVP of Product Marketing, Axcelis Technologies Inc., Beverly, MA USA
10. “Effective partnering and an outsourced service/process model needed in 2009,” Bob Tucker, VP/GM, Entrepix, Inc., Tempe, AZ USA


1. “The global economic crisis: a boon for solar energy?” Fred Yentz, CEO, ILS Technology LLC, Boca Raton, FL USA
2. “The future of PVs remains bright,” Andreas Widl, CEO, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, Cologne, Germany
3. “Semiconductor and HDD manufacturers turning to imprint lithography,” Mark Melliar-Smith, CEO, Molecular Imprints Inc., Austin, TX USA


1. “Position for leadership with predictive computational manufacturing,” Howard Ko, SVP/GM, Silicon Engineering Group, Synopsys Inc., Mountain View, CA USA
2. “Foundries/IDMs will catalyze broad adoption of 3D/TSVs and NIL,” Paul Lindner, Executive Technology Officer, EV Group, St. Florian/Inn., Austria
3. “In 2009, implement strategies to improve equipment productivity,” Abdi Hariri, Group VP, Customer Support Business Group, Lam Research Corporation, Fremont, CA USA
4. “Moving from DFM to MFD,” Martin van den Brink, EVP, Marketing & Technology, ASML, Veldhoven, The Netherlands
5. “Fab management software critical to profitability improvement in current market,” Mike Plisinski, VP/GM, Data Analysis and Review Business Unit, Rudolph Technologies Inc., Bloomington, MN USA
6. “Technology-driven growth still possible in current downturn,” Scott Becker, VP of Marketing, FSI International, Chaska, MN USA
7. “Technology buys are critical now to prepare for market rebound,” Tony Edwards, VP/GM, Electronics Division, FEI, Hillsboro, OR USA
8. “Yield management strategies need to keep pace with semiconductor innovation,” Erik Smith, President, Qcept Technologies, Atlanta, GA USA


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