By Bettina Weiss, VP, Business Development, SEMI
The 2nd annual SEMI Vietnam Semiconductor Strategy Summit, co-organized with the Saigon Hi-Tech Park and with FabMax as the premier sponsor, was held September 16-17, 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City. This year’s conference drew over 160 attendees from Vietnam, Europe, U.S. and other Southeast Asian countries for a full day of presentations, panel discussions, networking opportunities and interactions with government, the Ho Chi Minh City Semiconductor Industry Association (HSIA) and the Saigon Hi-Tech Park (SHTP).
Building on the success of the inaugural Summit in September of 2013, attendees and speakers commented on the sense of progress and growing vitality of the emerging semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in Vietnam. In his welcome remarks, Kai Fai Ng, president, SEMI Southeast Asia spoke to the importance of Vietnam in Southeast Asia, and SEMI’s plans to facilitate business interactions between Vietnamese and Southeast Asian companies, support efforts in workforce development and education, and continue to strengthen the relationship with key stakeholders in the country.
Of particular interest to the audience was the keynote presentation by Dr. Pham Ba Tuan, senior expert at CNS, the company tasked with executing the 200mm fab project in Saigon Hi-Tech Park that was announced last year. Tuan stressed the importance of domestically manufactured devices to satisfy a rapidly growing need in Vietnam thanks to the country’s young population and high university graduation rates. Tuan indicated that, depending on the product choice and the cost structure of the new wafer fab, at least 5,000 wafer starts per months would be needed. Fab capacity would be a function of product mix, so wafer starts need to be adjustable from 5,000 to 10,000 wafer starts per month. This would necessitate an investment of “a few million USD” to enable equipment purchases, fab construction and infrastructure readiness.
Tuan emphasized the fact that the choice of technology was a crucial factor for the wafer fab, since it influences investment volume, product portfolio, as well as the ability to develop a skilled workforce throughout the manufacturing process. The choice for the wafer fab in Saigon Hi-Tech Park is 180nm on 200mm wafers, a node and substrate size choice that will enable the production of a wide variety of products. According to CNS, revenue from all products made in technologies down to 180nm already account for US$1 billion.
The project timeline presented at the SEMI conference shows construction to begin in Q3 2015 and equipment move-in starting in Q2 2016.
The CNS presentation was followed by a brief company introduction to NXP delivered by Mr. Frederic Vincentini.
Kicking of the second session on Semiconductor Manufacturing in Vietnam, Ms. Sherry Boger, general manager, Intel Vietnam, provided an update on Intel’s plans to extend the production of flagship products to Vietnam — such as the Haswell microprocessor, which was recently announced. Intel’s Vietnam facility is the largest assembly and test facility in the global Intel network, employing over 3,000 Vietnamese employees when fully ramped.
Fab-Finder’s Todd Curtis shared his company’s learning experiences when they started doing business in Vietnam. He stated that the Fab-Finder management team brought over 100 years of semiconductor experience to the table — but 0 years in this country, making it imperative to rapidly get up to speed with respect to laws and taxes, cultural differences and sensitivities and different business practices. Mr. Curtis made a point of thanking his Vietnamese business partners, legal and tax advisors, HSIA and the Saigon Hi-Tech Park for the education they provided.
Prof. Cor Claeys of Imec presented Imec’s Open Innovation Model. Given the ever shrinking features, the complexity of new devices and applications and the rising cost in R&D, Claeys stressed the need for collaborative efforts in the semiconductor industry in order to keep up with the increasing need and speed of innovation.
Contrasting Imec’s Open Innovation model with the traditional R&D approach – where most of the R&D is done in-house, no IP is shared and projects occur in silos –Claeys emphasized the need to share risk, cost, talent and IP among R&D partners in order to jointly reap the benefits of an accelerated, cost-effective RD activity.
This discussion provided a nice introduction into two presentations in the afternoon addressing technology transfers, IP creation and protection. Ms. Radhika Snirivasan, Ph.D., from IBM talked about the process by which technology transfers occur, and how opportunities and risks can be managed. Snirivasan described technology transfers as “quintessential” to any technology installation and shared IBM’s methodology, from preparation and training through installation and debug, qualification and yield learning to product qualification and ramp. She pointed to the added value when IP transfers are managed in highly customizable and flexible scenarios, providing protection and safeguards against risks such as the transfer infrastructure, adequacy of documentation and lack of technology readiness/maturity.
Dr. John Schmitz of NXP elaborated on the subject by presenting NXP’s view on the growing importance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) since knowledge has become a critical driver in the economy. “IPRs are the economical manifestation of technical and business knowledge,” said Schmitz, stressing that IPRs provide a mechanism of protection against misuse. Speaking to current and future patent portfolios, he stated the requirement for future patents to be aligned with the overall company strategy, but stressed the inherent risk of having to look at least 5 years ahead — a mandate he contrasted with the product lifecycle of mobile phones, which is currently about 6 months.
The last formal presentation of the day was M+W Group’s “Integrated Approach for Semiconductor Wafer Fab Implementation,” presented by Mr. Andreas Authenrieth, M+W Group. His presentation focused on the prerequisites for a sustainable and cost-effective fab design, with particular emphasis on energy efficiency, environmental technology and the use of renewable energy. Authenrieth also included the use of secondary equipment in his presentation, explaining the importance of correlating tool specifications with technology requirements, paying close attention to consumables and spares and managing equipment testing and documentation. These considerations could be of particular importance for the CNS wafer fab project.
The 2nd annual SEMI Vietnam Semiconductor Strategy Summit concluded with two panel discussions: The first panel – investing and operating in the technology sector in Vietnam – was moderated by Eduard Hoeberichts, FabMax and included two presentations which addressed both the side of the operator and the side of the government. Johnny Choo of ON Semiconductor shared the experience as an operator of two back-end facilities in Vietnam and highlighted the very positive experience over the last several years as well as some of the areas for potential improvement.
This perspective was consistent with the observations that Sherry Boger of Intel made in the morning presentation. Dr. Le Hoai Quoc as president of Saigon High Tech Park presented the capabilities of the High Tech Park as well as the general government support in various areas for operators and new investors in Vietnam. The “two sides of the coin” perspective led to a lively discussion at the end of the panel session.
The second panel – Education and Workforce Development – was moderated by Ms. Bettina Weiss, SEMI, and included: Ms. Sherry Boger, Intel Vietnam; Dr. Carel von der Poel, Technical University Delft; Dr. Pham Ba Tuan, CNS; and Cao Nguyen, ON Semiconductor. The importance of developing a skilled talent pool in Vietnam was also a prominent topic in SEMI’s 2013 Vietnam Semiconductor Strategy Summit. Panelists engaged in a lively debate about the need to do more for women in high tech, partnerships with international universities and special programs like HEEAP (Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program) which Intel is very actively supporting, as well as the Technical University Delft/DIMES Center, which has been engaged with Vietnam’s Hanoi University of Technology, Hanoi University of Civil Engineering and the Ministry of Science and Technology in various programs. According to Dr. van der Poel, it would be fairly easy to extend these programs to the semiconductor space, as Vietnam starts focusing on workforce readiness in this sector.
At the networking reception, attendees and speakers alike commented on the sense of progress and excitement over the last 12 months. Local attendees in particular appreciated the rich presentations and perspectives from the conference speakers, and international companies, including our sponsors, left with a lot of new contacts and business opportunities in country — and the sense that Vietnam is very serious about becoming a stakeholder in the global semiconductor market.
SEMI is grateful for the support of the sponsoring companies who helped make this year’s Summit possible: FabMax, CNS, M+W Group, Advantest, Fab-Finder, GES, Lam Research, NXP, QAM, and Surplus Global.