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The magic behind the gadget and the need for innovation

Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA-Tencor, provided the keynote talk at the SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) this year, held Jan 12-15 in Half Moon Bay, CA. He said he believes the semiconductor industry might be facing a “Concorde” moment, referring to the demise of supersonic passenger transport, the last flight of which was on 24 October 2003. “That failed not because of technology but because of economics,” Wallace said. He sees a similar challenge coming down the road for continued scaling. “Moore’s Law is much more likely to die in the boardroom than the laboratory,” said.

Wallace also spoke about “The Road Less Traveled,” seeming to indicate that the more traveled one is that of consolidation, which Wallace said leads to “losses in agility, flexibility and innovation.” He said larger firms are not effective at driving innovation although they are effective at driving continuous improvement. “It’s tough to see how a large scale merger makes a company better,” he said. “Some firms will be too big to fail but my fear is that they will become too big to innovate.”

The solution he said is young people. “We need to attract the young talent if we want real innovation. The longer you’re around the more you see what can’t be done,” he said.

Wallace told a story about explaining to his 10 year old daughter what his company by using the iPad as an example. His daughter thought about it and said she understood: it was the magic behind the gadget.

Part of attracting young people to the semiconductor industry is through education. After Rick’s presentation, Denny McGuirk, president of SEMI, presented an award to Rick and to L.T. Guttadauro, president of the Fab Owners Association, in recognition of their work on SEMI’s High Tech University (HTU). HTU is a career exploration program that encourages student interest in science, technology, engineering and match. Since 2001, the SEMI Foundation has delivered 143 programs to 4800 students and teachers worldwide.

Although some view the semiconductors as a commodity, hopefully efforts such as that of the HTU will explain the magic behind the gadget. “Who doesn’t want to work on magic?” Wallace asked.

3 Responses to “The magic behind the gadget and the need for innovation”

  1. Blog review January 13, 2014 | Semiconductor Manufacturing & Design Community Says:

    [...] Singer blogs from this week’s ISS. Keynote Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA-Tencor said the semiconductor industry could be approaching a “Concorde moment” where economic factors overtake technical capabiltiies. Wallace also sees a need to boost [...]

  2. R. E. Adams Says:

    Well; What do we have here? The Semi Industry dying like the Concord ?! If I remember correctly, good ole Rube Goldberg once said ‘ No Matter how you slice Baloney, Its Still Baloney ! ‘ -

    SciTech is always changing ! Its the Nature of the Beast ! There are smart people out there coming up with new ideas, new inventions, solving problems, etc., etc.! Well; that won’t stop! Already, photonic computers have been demonstrated as being feasible! And, to the surprise of those in Saudi Arabia; All Electric Powered Aircraft are on the horizon ! Even in my own machine shop; I have a small 6″ diameter, all electric powered Fan Jet Engine! Ready to go on my home designed two engine experiental aircraft !!!

    Nothing in Science and Technology suddenly stops and changes ! Why? Its all about smooth transistions! Most people get caught up in this kind of hysteria simply because they lack ‘ experience, knowledge and skills ‘ ! And, lack the confidence to carry out what they actually do Know ! To this; ‘ I say Baloney ! ‘ R. E. Adams, Ph.D, physicist -

  3. Byungchun Yang Says:

    I agree with Rick Wallace’s remark that miniaturization would eventually stop. Note that introduction of 14nm devices was delayed for more than one year when Intel released them. I heard the yield of 14nm is currently 40 to 50%, which is far lower than 22nm devices’ yield of 90 to 95%. About expected delay of introducing 10nm devices, I would say it would be far longer time 14nm cases. It may not come out since there would be no economical benefit due to too low yield and diminished performance of materials.

    Mr. Wallace mentioned that young people may be better in innovation. I am sorry but I don’t know about it because that might not be a general opinion. However, I can say that individual investors are far better than corporate inventors in patent quality point of view since the former guys are betting their own money for the invention when seeking patent protection. This is my thought.

    Mr. Wallace, would you please take a look at a BEOL technology that I have come up with for the yield and performance improvement of the devices? It will give your company a chance to sell cluster tools, if we co-work each other under an agreement. I would insist that improving the yield and performance of IC devices are the ways to be staying profitable even when IC miniaturization is ending.

    I worry that you would not want to see what I have since you may also want to follow the other guys who are unanimously saying that they cannot deal with individual inventors. Note that these guys are trying their best to hold onto their job without doing any noticeable acts such as investigating business offers and technology evaluation, when market is to be shrinking due to the stopping miniaturization of devices! Are you surely in need of innovation, or are you the one of these senior guys you mentioned? We might not have enough time to follow the other guys just to lose the chance to find innovative technologies!

    Byung Chun Yang, an Inventor, 408-829-5297,

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