The hunger’s back says SEMI’s Manocha
Back then he was starting out at as research scientist at Bell Labs and the hunger and spirit of adventure was for all things semiconductor. Now there is a renewed hunger and MEMS and sensors are part of it, and this also part of an opportunity for Europe, said Manocha, the former CEO of Globalfoundries who took over as head of SEMI early in 2017.
Manocha came to the co-located European MEMS and Sensors and European Imaging and Sensors summits in Grenoble, France, organized by SEMI, to introduce the keynote speakers and support the events in their first year under SEMI’s auspices.
In an interview with eeNews Europe Manocha pointed out that when he was starting out double-digit percentage growth for the semiconductor industry was common. But more recently the accepted wisdom has been that semiconductors are mature and that the industry was consigned to low growth. “Well this year growth is greater than 20 percent for the chip industry and IC equipment and materials are breaking all growth records since 2000. It is down to the new applications in IoT, automotive, 5G, medical technology, and a lot of focus on AR/VR and machine learning,” he said.
Notwithstanding that elevated average selling prices for memory ICs are a key part of this year’s boom, it is true that when there is money around hunger and excitement are a natural consequence.
Manocha said that when SEMI started out connection, collaboration and innovation were the mantra with the organization supporting these by way of setting standards, encouraging collaboration for conferences and to collect market data and working on health and safety issues. And SEMI is ready to do the same in the area of MEMS and sensors Manocha said.
Next: Policies not politics
When asked if recent political events and a world moving towards more regionalism and even protectionism created problems for SEMI, Manocha responded: “We work globally with governments in an advocacy role on the four Ts: trade, tax, technology and talent. For example SEMI is pushing for free trade and to lower corporate tax in the US where it is one of the highest rates.” Manocha added that governments needed to spend money to fuel R&D and also to encourage the talent pool.
Although SEMI runs programs to support high-school students thinking of taking up science and technology courses, Manocha said the problem of students wanting to take business-, law-, and other vocationally-oriented degrees rather than science was not only present in the western hemisphere but also in the eastern. And since the birth of social media most computer science students are more interested in Google and Facebook as career choices than in hard science.
“We don’t have enough talent in Taiwan and China’s growth has been hurt by a lack of talent, which is one reason why China recruits from Taiwan,” Manocha, said. “Industrial leaders and governments need to work together to level the playing field for students,” Manocha said.
“SEMI wants to see the industry grow across the globe; in every region. We stay away from the political parties but the policies are important for growth.”
Next: Can European compete?
However, Europe is struggling to remain significant in the semiconductor sector. To try and bolster its position it has recently started to roll out the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI). This is a European Union policy instrument that facilitates state support for manufacturing, without breaching European competition laws – and by extension, arguably, World Trade Organization rules (see Leti, Fraunhofer join forces on “strategic” nanoelectronics).
However, the extent of project still appears to be uncertain as it seems to be in an early consensus-forming stage. It is thought to be worth about €2 billion (about $2.4 billion) and is intended to encourage corporate spending of about four or five times that amount. Contrast that with South Korea where about 50 manufacturing companies recently came together to say they would spend nearly $50 billion on electronics manufacturing over the next seven years (see Korea to spend $46 billion on electronics factories).
Surely Europe simply could not afford such spending? “Why not?” responded Manocha. “Innovation is critical and manufacturing is critical.” Manocha left unsaid that ambition is also critical. “ASML is a great example for Europe,” he concluded citing the market leader in semiconductor manufacturing equipment , which is based in the Netherlands.
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