The R&D Challenge: Tackling the Infrastructure Gap

The R&D Challenge: Tackling the Infrastructure Gap

By Michael Lercel, director of Nanodefectivity and Metrology, SEMATECH

Over the past decade, the structural dynamics of the semiconductor industry have changed significantly — becoming less vertically integrated and more segmented. Increased globalization and growth in demand, driven by a cycle of continuous improvements in technology have contributed to the emergence of specialization along the value chain. Dividing the industry into segmented subsets to meet specific needs has created new visibility, coordination and affordability challenges.

Accordingly, the semiconductor supply chain — including component manufacturers, ODMs, distributors, OEMs, and system integrators — is becoming more complex, costly and vulnerable. While faced with difficult technology and investment choices, there is now increased pressure on the component-level supply chain to continuously adapt to changing technology requirements and cope with larger and larger investments in R&D.

Industry Challenges: Key Stakeholders


Source: SEMATECH, 2013 

The Affordability Challenge

As the semiconductor industry scales to nodes below 20 nm, the key barrier for supply chain R&D is the lack of infrastructure needed to test parts and materials, and characterization equipment to diagnose defects and provide data to develop better products.

In addition, strict requirements are being put on equipment and material suppliers to address technical challenges, which are affecting progress in next-generation lithography techniques, new materials and processes for sub-20 nm manufacturing, and the 450mm wafer integration. In an effort to pursue oncoming disruptive innovations, the semiconductor community will need to take a collaborative approach and adopt a multi-lateral model where different companies collaboratively develop precompetitive technologies.

No one solution can bridge the R&D infrastructure gap. The future of industry innovation and new technology introduction demands a holistic approach that addresses all facets of R&D including strategy, process and organization, and funding.  A fundamental role of a new collaborative model is efficient coordination across the supply chain to share resources, cost and risk.

Shared resource competency centers can provide improved infrastructure by integrating capabilities and activities to eliminate unnecessary duplication of research efforts. Participants gain immediate access to new technologies and markets, roadmaps, and shared resources, and faster cycles of learning for developing new products, while maximizing value from R&D spending. 

Opportunities to Close the Gap

In order to prepare for the technical challenges and major industry transitions that will consume the industry’s resources over the next decade, we must address the absence of sufficient and reliable infrastructure funding. 

How do we, as an industry, plan in a way so that the rate of change is affordable and delivers the needed benefits on time? How can we manage risk at an acceptable level?

While there are no simple answers, industry conferences and technology forums that bring together manufacturers, suppliers, developers, academia and research consortia to share knowledge and make informed decisions are necessary now more than ever.

During SEMICON West 2013 (, SEMATECH will continue the dialog between IDMs, OEMs, and the supply chain through series of presentations and workshops focused on R&D challenges and closing key infrastructure technology gaps. Register for SEMICON West at no charge through May 10:

On July 10, SEMATECH CEO Dan Armbrust will be participating in SEMI’s executive R&D Panel, “A Conversation on the Future of Semiconductor Technologyat SEMICON West (register for SEMICON West at no charge until May 10 here: In addition, SEMATECH is co-hosting a TechXPOT session on “Nanodefects: An Emerging Challenge.” Also on July 10, an invitation-only workshop hosted jointly by SEMI and SEMATECH will investigate trends in supply chain R&D and explore collaborative models that will enable cost-effective innovation. To close out the week, an open workshop hosted by SEMATECH’s Nanodefect Center will be held on July 11 to emphasize defectivity issues and infrastructure gaps in liquid systems and liquid filtration.


May 7, 2013