A New York adventure

August 26, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
New York's gain is Europe's loss as Austria's AMS grabs the analog and mixed-signal news headlines with an innovative plan hatched with the State of New York to let the company rent rather than own its next wafer fab.

But on the other hand the leadership of the company is moving from the broad and successful shoulders of Texan Kirk Laney to the widely experienced shoulders of a European executive Alexander Everke.

New York State, having laid out big bucks to attract the world's digital IC manufacturers and host leading-edge research collaborations, is now turning its attention to "More-than-Moore." It has offered to pay for a wafer fab to be built to AMS' specification and then let the company rent the facility on a 20-year lease.

The plan is expected to cost AMS $2 billion but spread out over 20 years. What happens to the facility after that, who knows? For 20 years is a long time and company fortunes and identities are certain to change over that time and the plan trimmed accordingly.

One factor in New York's change of emphasis is consolidation at the leading edge of digital semiconductor manufacturing. New York has probably pitched itself to all the leading digital chipmakers including Intel, TSMC and Samsung. So now it is turning to a relatively plentiful second tier of More-than-Moore foundries many of which are looking to Southeast Asia to make similar arrangements. But as New York has repeatedly demonstrated, money talks.

Building More-than-Moore manufacturing capacity is something Europe could have executed and represents a missed opportunity. It is inherently lower cost than digital IC manufacturing and Europe still retains much expertise in analog, mixed-signal, RF, MEMS and sensor technologies. Indeed Europe was advised to pursue such a course a few years ago but Europe has lacked the vision and willpower to do it so far.