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The Economics of Innovation... Daunting

The convergence of mobility, communication and computing has produced multifunctional end applications that are placing huge demands on semiconductor manufacturers.  These new devices require low power, high performance, and a lot  of advanced manufacturing capacity at a low cost.

At the 2011 Semico Summit, Gregg Bartlett, Senior Vice President of Technology and Research and Development, GLOBALFOUNDRIES talked about the economics of innovation, highlighting the daunting economic and technology challenges to bring products to market.  Just a few of the major costs include the following:

  • $1-2 billion in leading edge process technology development,
  • 3-4 years of development,
  • $40-$50 million in chip design costs,
  • $250 million for design enablement such as libraries and IP,
  • $5-$7 billion for an advanced 300mm fab.

Today’s market is a high stakes game.  Its no wonder that the industry has embraced a collaborative environment at all levels.

Bartlett stated that the 20nm node signals an inflection point in the development of technology.  The process will be tightly coupled with the end market application needs.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES is already working on 20nm and is planning on offering different techniques and options which will allow the customer to optimize the final solution.  But that also means early stage engagements to define the needs.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES is leveraging the consortia approach in its development of EUV.   The first tool will be installed in their new Malta fab in the second half 2012.  Bartlett stated that double patterning has actually lowered the barrier to entry for EUV.  Foundries such a GLOBALFOUNDRIES, offer higher product diversity which means there will be some very low volume products.  The cost of double patterning including the amortized cost of the mask could be prohibitive, forcing EUV into the picture.

It’s now becoming evident that the economics of innovation are influenced by the limitations of existing options.   Those with foresight already see the limitations of 300mm.

Joanne Itow

Managing Director, Manufacturing

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