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IC centers remain afloat despite China's rise

Posted: 11 May 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Jonathan Hopfner? semiconductor? Semicon Singapore? Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International? SEMI?

Despite the country's exponential growth and reputation as a low-cost manufacturing base, policy and human resource shortfalls are likely to prevent China from eclipsing the traditional centers of the semiconductor industry for the foreseeable future, according to representatives at the Semicon Singapore 2006 conference.

Stanley Myers, president and CEO of industry association Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), admitted that manufacturing is concentrating in China while India is also emerging as a compelling market and investment destination.

But "the knowledge base is still the United States, Europe, Japan and Taiwan," he said. "That doesn't mean it will stay that way forever, but right now the focus and emphasis has to be on innovation, creativity and the current knowledge base. [Those countries] are probably the best in the world at intellectual property protection, so that's where you see the impact of public policy.

"Creation and innovation of technology comes from concern for environmental issues, health, safety, and the concern whether government regulations are done in conjunction with industry," Myers said. "These advocacy areas don't get the emphasis they should, but as the industry becomes more complex, they're going to play a much more important role in the development of the new products."

Myers said rather than concentrating on building infrastructure or offering incentives, governments should focus their efforts on improving technical education and fostering research. "The next killer app always has been, is and always will be innovation and creativity," he said.

To help matters in this arena, SEMI recently exported its "High-Tech U" programin which the organization and leading companies introduce high school students to the semiconductor industryto Singapore, and also has plans to bring the program to Japan.

"There's a shortage in the pipeline of people going into high-tech industries, and not just in the United States," Myers said.

He said the future of the semiconductor market could also be compromised by the overall trend of falling prices, which may prompt companies to scale back the funding they allot to research.

"We're getting things cheap these days. [Consumers] can drive the market to the point that there's not enough money pumped into the R&D to continue the rapid development of new products," he said. "The market will always equalize, but the big question is will the crash settle at a level at which companies can continue to afford the R&D."

- Jonathan Hopfner
EE Times

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