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Chinese vendors set their sights on MEMS

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? Chinese vendors? market?

Following their jump at developing native apps processors for mobile devices, Chinese vendors are gearing up for yet another race, which is the rapidly growing MEMS market for smartphones.

Chinese start-ups have yet to establish themselves as key players in the global market, which could take 10 or 20 years even, and the top 20 MEMS players listed by the market research firm Yole Dveloppement shows so. Meanwhile, emerging Chinese MEMS vendors are likely to be concentrated in low-end MEMS segments such as microphones and pressure sensors.

MEMS top 10 players

Source: Yole Dveloppement

In the world of CMOS-based SoC development, Chinese fabless companies, despite relatively little experience in the field, have been able to get rich quickly. The opportunity generated a few domestic winners (i.e. Spreadtrum, Allwinner, and Rockchip) who rose above the pack. Many, however, eventually ended up ruthlessly beating each other up on price. This chapter offered a great example of how broadly available licensable IP cores (from ARM, Imagination, and others), designs, SPICE and access to foundries with finer geometry nodes presented an unprecedented level playing field for Chinese fabless companies.

MEMS is likely to be a different story. MEMS will test the patience, long-term vision, and breadth and depth of the IP portfolios held by Chinese startups. All of these qualities tend not to be China's fort.

Today, China has thus far four MEMS pioneering vendors. They include MEMSIC, Senodia, QST, and MiraMEMS. A lot more MEMS players are reportedly coming upon China, largely driven by growing interest in MEMS among local VCs and entrepreneurs.

MEMS local Chinese players

Companies in red are China's MEMS companies. Source: SITRI

There is also the push for MEMS by the local government in conjuction with a research institute. Shanghai Industrial Technology Research Institute (SITRI) was established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai government to focus on the development of "More than Moore" technology.

SITRI, established after Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) as its model, is an open innovation platform that encompasses an 203.2mm micro-fabrication line, R&D facilities, engineering services, supply-chain partners, and industry Association. SITRI also offers dedicated investment funds.

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