At SEMICON Southeast Asia 2021, Mr. Terence Gan, Senior Vice President, Semiconductors, Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore, delivered an opening address which outlined the importance of the semiconductor industry for the nation.
In his speech, Mr. Gan outlined the five microelectronics research pillars for Singapore in the medium to long term:
- Heterogenous integration
- Millimeter wave and beyond for future communications
- Novel architectures for edge AI
- Wide bandgap semiconductors for next-gen power electronics and RF
- Piezoelectric MEMS
Mr. Gan further shared that Singapore will continue to deploy significant capital and invest in talent to conduct world-class research in these areas. As of today, there are about 9,000 semiconductor R&D persons in the private sector in Singapore, of which 1,000 are PHDs. Singapore will continue to invest in schools to encourage more students to graduate with microelectronics skillsets. He also stressed the importance for Singapore to forge global partnerships and build communities to tap onto the strengths of its partners.
“Our goal has been for Singapore’s semiconductor industry to grow at least as fast as the global semiconductor industry. This means that as the industry doubles in size in the next decade, so too, will Singapore’s semiconductor industry,” said Mr. Gan.
“Semiconductor innovation is the cornerstone of today’s digital age. Recently, a team from Qualcomm Singapore helped to test and debug the processor that enabled NASA’s helicopter, Ingenuity, to fly on Mars. A more down to earth example, which is no less impressive, is Micron Singapore’s development of the world’s highest density NAND Flash memory in November last year. It has 176 layers, which is 13 more floors than the Burj Khalifa. Or Applied Materials and Besi coming together in Singapore to develop die-based hybrid bonding equipment solutions,” Gan continued.
“It is through innovations across the ecosystem, that we have new technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, autonomous vehicles and quantum computers. Through R&D, we develop new economic opportunities Steady and sustained investments in R&D is a key pillar of Singapore’s economic development strategy. It enables Singapore to have an edge against larger and better resourced countries. In December last year, the Singapore government announced a $25 billion R&D budget for the next five years. This is 30% more than the previous five year budget. To quote Prime Minister Lee, this will sustain Singapore’s competitiveness and bolster her status as a tech and innovation hub,” he said.
“Patient capital at a national level, is very important for our industry, because as you can all attest to this, success rarely comes overnight, but instead comes from honing our craft, from building on past successes and learning from past mistakes. For example, advanced packaging is one of Singapore’s strengths. Today, in Singapore, we are doing R&D on wafer to wafer and chip to wafer bonding, hybrid bonding, and chiplet packaging. But these are possible because of 25 years of learning, from when we set up the first Electronic Packaging Research Consortium in 1996. One notable achievement is fan out wafer level packaging. Around 2012, almost ten years ago, STATS-ChipPAC commercialized eWLB, a type of fan-out wafer level package. The technology that was ahead of its time. Today, we are doing research to extend the capabilities of fan out wafer level packaging. For example, A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics is collaborating with the leading industry players to adapt fan out wafer level packaging for millimeter wave 5G, by putting into one package the power amplifier, MMICs, passive components and millimeter wave antenna arrays. Doing this improves performance while reducing the package area. This is especially important for mobile applications,” Gan said.
The Future of Microelectronics Initiative
“How does Singapore decide what research areas to invest in? The first method is to let a thousand flowers bloom. We screen research proposals via competitive grant calls and rigorous peer reviews. And we provide follow-on funding for the most promising research,” Gan said. “The second method is for the big bets. Because the funding required is bigger, we need to be more deliberate in choosing the research areas. But once it is approved, it leverages the resources across the entire research ecosystem.”
Gan said Singapore will deploy significant capital and talent to do world-class research in the five microelectronics research pillars. “For example, for the pillar on wide bandgap semiconductors, we will invest in a new lab to do R&D and pilot production for silicon carbide and gallium nitride and maybe for gallium oxide in future. We will develop our own baseline IP for epitaxy and post-epi processes. We will also develop novel devices, such as silicon carbide super junction MOSFETs and 200GHz GaN-on-SiC high electron mobility transistors and millimeter wave ICs. You can think of it as an R&D foundry for anyone with a good idea to use,” he explained.
“To be successful, we cannot do this alone. We need to have global partnerships and build communities, to tap on the strengths of each partner. The five microelectronics research pillars will be a big collective effort, involving materials suppliers, chip designers, manufacturers, equipment OEMs, universities and research labs. We welcome you to join us.,” he said.
“Through R&D, we develop and retain our base of talented scientists and researchers To make Singapore’s ambition to be a world-class research and manufacturing hub a reality, we also need a strong pipeline of talent. Our goal has been for Singapore’s semiconductor industry to grow at least as fast as the global semiconductor industry. This means that as the industry doubles in size in the next decade, so too, will Singapore’s semiconductor industry. Given the increased complexity of semiconductor research and manufacturing becoming more innovation intensive, we expect the number of R&D scientists and engineers needed in Singapore to double too. Today, there are about 9000 semiconductor R&D persons in the private sector in Singapore, of which about 1,000 are PhDs. We are making plans to invest more in our schools to encourage more students to graduate with microelectronics skills. There is urgency, more than before, to invest heavily to nurture the talent we need,” said Gan.