Funding the future: Managing the cost of R&D


One of the big issues now facing the industry is to how best spend limited funding for research and development, when so much needs to be done. Continued scaling to 10nm and below, a transition to 450mm, 3D integration, device new structures such as the FinFET, a bevy of new materials with unknown integration challenges - these are all needed.

I think it's fairly clear that, with the industry's present model, it's going to be difficult to fully finance everything on the wish list. This isn't a new dilemma, of course. In a SEMI-funded reported published in 2005, Ron Leckie analyzed all the things that were noted in the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) and concluded that the funding gap could reach upwards of $9.3 billion by 2010 (which included the 450mm transition). Seven years later, Moore's Law is holding firm. The way the industry has been able to get around the funding challenge is through collaboration. Consortia such as SEMATECH and imec are great models of collaboration, enabling companies to work on "pre-competitive" research to share costs and reduce risks. The Common Platform model employed by IBM/Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES is another great example. The entire CNSE/Albany Nanotech/G450C effort is perhaps the best example of university, industry, consortia and government working together.

But is this enough? One could argue that fabless companies could do more to support semiconductor R&D. Ditto for the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and many other entities that have built their company on the internet and electronics technology.

Perhaps the semiconductor industry will go the way of the automotive and aerospace industries, which have very different models when it comes to cost-sharing and risk-sharing. One thing is for sure: a new model is needed or not everything will get funded.

Solid State Technology, Volume 55, Issue 5, June 2012

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