SEMI educates policymakers on 450mm transition

This SEMI News and Views blog is written by Jonathan Davis, president, SEMI Semiconductor Business.

April 11, 2012 — With estimates for the R&D cost of 450mm wafer transition running in the tens of billions of dollars, public-private partnerships will have a critical role throughout the world.  Already, the State of New York is anticipating a $400 million investment in advanced chip research over the coming years and the European Union is funding research in a variety of Key Enabling Technologies including microelectronics manufacturing.  Many countries around the world will see next-generation 450mm wafer tools and fabs as critical features of a national competitiveness strategy.  In anticipation of the increased role in government support for advanced chip manufacturing technology, SEMI has been actively engaged in education and other efforts with policymakers around the world. 

SEMI: Working with U.S. Legislators on Effect of Transition

As the topic of the transition to 450mm becomes more relevant at industry seminars, conferences, and boardrooms, SEMI has met with over 150 Federal and State government officials to discuss the likely impacts and requirements on a chip industry transition to 450mm wafers.

Along with a group of member company representatives, SEMI recently met with senior staff for California Governor Jerry Brown in the state capital of Sacramento.  With 200 SEMI member companies headquartered in California, semiconductor manufacturing is high-priority issue for the Governor Brown’s office.  Gov. Brown has shown great leadership in not only understanding the needs of the semiconductor equipment industry in California, but the need for a strong domestic industry infrastructure across the nation.

On the national level, Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) has been fully engaged in learning more about the semiconductor equipment industry, as he represents a large portion of Silicon Valley in the House of Representatives.  Rep. Honda sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee which writes the annual bills that directly fund the federal government.  The Congressman visited SEMI headquarters in February to hear directly from SEMI members about the challenges that they are facing and meet with SEMI staff to hear their policy concerns.  Rep. Honda also organized a briefing for other Members of Congress and their staffs in Washington, D.C. to hear from the President of the SEMI Semiconductor IC Business Unit Jonathan Davis about the semiconductor equipment industry overall, and about the 450mm transition in particular.  Rep. Honda also penned an op-ed in The Hill, a Washington political newspaper, about the need for the U.S. government to compete with other nations in supporting the 450mm transition.

Along with Rep. Honda, SEMI has received positive support for its education efforts from Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) who represents a large swath of the upstate New York Capital Corridor, and whose district includes the Global Foundries Fab in Malta, NY.   SEMI has also been active in working with members of both parties in the U.S. Senate including Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).  Each one of these Senators has significant SEMI membership in their states and has been working hard to engage on the issues surrounding the transition to 450mm.

There is much work to be done before the industry fully transitions to 450mm technology.  In order to be completely prepared, policymakers must be fully informed of the issues that surround the transition, and SEMI is working to ensure that they understand the ramifications of such a massive industry undertaking. 

SEMI’s Washington D.C. office continues to focus on key issues and holds events such as the Washington Forum and other lobbying activities to ensure that our industry’s collective voice is heard. Please let us know if you would like to get involved in public policy efforts in the U.S. (contact Jamie Girard at jgirard@semi.org). 

In addition, the industry will learn more about the supply chain implications of 450mm at the various 450mm programs at SEMICON West 2012, which takes place on July 10-12 in San Francisco, Calif.

Europe Considers How Government Policies Could Support the 450mm Supply Chain  

At the recent ISS Europe, the implications of the industry-wide transition to 450mm manufacturing technologies and the important role that European equipment and materials companies play in the global market were discussed.  Malcolm Penn, CEO, of market research firm Future Horizons, noted at the conference, “If Europe doesn’t embrace 450mm, Europe will be history.”  Penn believes that the 450mm era may ultimately introduce a less adversarial business model given the intense requirements for collaboration to implement the technology.

Bas van Nooten, director European Cooperative Programs, ASM International and spokesperson for the European Equipment and Materials Initiative (EEMI) said that the European semiconductor equipment and materials industry employs more than 100,000 people and it is key for the European supply chain to be prepared for the wafer transition.  He referenced the EEMI450 White Paper, which was recently presented to the European Commission and concludes that support and collaboration across all elements of the research and development operation, including National Governments, is vital to maximize 450mm European equipment and materials manufacturer readiness and subsequent market opportunity. 

Imec president and CEO Luc Van den hove, said that to maintain long-term innovation leadership position in Europe, it will be imperative to set up a 450mm R&D and demonstration facility. It will be needed to support the entire European eco system including equipment and material suppliers. He believes that such 450mm R&D and demo facility will act as the primary innovation engine 5 to 10 years from now.

In addition to government programs aimed at 450mm funding support, other essential policy objectives required to sustain chip manufacturing in Europe were enumerated at the conference. Representatives from existing European fabs cited concerns about “make or break” decisions that pit 450mm against on-going profitable 300mm and 200mm operations.

Michael Hummel, managing director, Texas Instruments said that, “Investment alone will not sustain the industry in Europe.” He referred to a number of other policy considerations including labor laws, utility cost, and the pipeline of science and engineering talent.  Hummel notes that TI wafer fabs in Europe are competitive.  For the analog company, most of the challenges are economic — not technical. Therefore, compromise will be an essential policy parameter to sustain the health of some existing European manufacturing.

ISS Europe conference attendees heard opinions about diverse strategies that recognize the 450mm, 300mm and 200mm interests as well as the critical role that R&D and the equipment and materials supply chain plays — not only for Europe, but around the world.  It is increasingly apparent that a thoughtful public policy support is needed to sustain innovation, jobs and critical manufacturing in Europe.

In Europe, the discussion will continue at the sixth SEMI Brussels Forum, which is coming up soon on May 22. The SEMI Brussels Forum gathers 200 policy influencers from 20 countries to discuss the issues. About 25 percent of the participants are European Commission representatives, while  25 percent are from EU institutions. Participants represent 20 countries.  Please let us know if you would like to get involved in public policy efforts in Europe (contact Stephan Raithel at sraithel@semi.org).

In the U.S., the industry will learn more about the supply chain implications of 450mm at the various 450mm programs at SEMICON West 2012 which takes place in San Francisco, Calif. on July 10-12.
In conclusion, SEMI is driving collaborative dialog through a number of activities including international standards development, industry information programs, expositions and conferences, and increasingly, a strong public policy education program.

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