Stiftung Neue Verantwortung eV, a non-profit think tank based in Berlin, has produced the white paper report that shows the rising and falling contributions to leading-edge semiconductor R&D by nations and regions. It was done by using the official IEEE application programming interface to access the IEEE records of the four leading conferences from 1995 to 2020. The report is entitled: Who is developing the chips of the future.

SNV chose to tabulate the contributions to the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) and the twin Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits (VLSI). These were classified in terms of the locations of the authors, taking into account international collaborations.

The method only surveyed the main technical programs and did not include keynotes or invited papers.

Paper contributions to IEDM, ISSCC, VLSI by national and regonal origin from 1995 to 2020. Source: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.

The result shows that in 2020 the United States was responsible 40.9 percent of the total, a small decrease from the 43.2 percent of the total papers presented in1995.

In 1995, Europe was responsible for 12.5 percent of the papers and has increased its significance to 24.9 percent of the total in 2020. Europe’s rise is undoubtedly due to the work of its research and technology organizations (RTOs), mainly IMEC, Leti and the Fraunhofer Institutes.

However, with Europe’s decreasing market share in chip sales the authors conclude that while a strong R&D may be necessary for a strong semiconductor industry it is no guarantee.

Next: It’s all about Asia

The bigger conclusion drawn by the SNV team is that during the last 25 years China, South Korea and Taiwan have come to play an increasingly important role. This should be no surprise as South Korea and Taiwan are now the only places where leading-edge silicon can be manufactured. It is also clear that China, South Korea and Taiwan may have started out as low-cost manufacturing hubs for chips but they have become important research partners.

Taiwan provided 1.7 percent of the papers in 1995 and 13.4 percent in 2020. On the same basis South Korea has gone from 4.8 percent to 12.9 percent.

As Japan has lost market share so its share of R&D has reduced. Meanwhile China’s R&D engine has come to rival that of Japan. Source: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.

China did not have any papers at these conferences prior to 1999 but by 2020 contributed 10.0 percent.

The largest movement by any country is the spectacular fall of Japan. Back in 1995 Japan was still the dominant supplier of memory components and trying to break into logic. It was a rival to the United States and contributed 38.6 percent of the papers to these top conferences. As Japan’s semiconductor industry declined under repeated re-organizations, so have its contributions to R&D. In 2020 Japan contributed 9.6 percent of the papers.

The analysis includes interactive charts and breaks Europe down into individual countries. It shows that Belgium has progressed from offering 1.9 percent of the papers in 1995 to 8.7 percent in 2020. This progress is largely due to the R&D conducted at IMEC.

The report is available from the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung think-tank with interactive, interrogatable charts of papers and shared paper contributions by region and country.

Related links and articles:

Who is developing the chips of the future

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