In his editorial yesterday, Steve DeCollibus, managing editor of Semiconductor Packaging News, offered some food for thought about the concept of the semiconductor industry innovating its way out of this downturn. To illustrate his point, he tracks the evolution of the integrated circuit itself – a technical innovation that took 80 years to complete.The point he makes is this: true innovation takes time, dedication, collaboration, and full participation of everyone from academia and R&D, across the entire supply chain. It’s not something that can be done, as he puts it “on demand.” I couldn’t agree more.
Innovation shouldn’t be seen as the antidote, or cure to the current economic pandemic. Rather, ongoing treatment seems to be much a much more potent measure against the disease. For example, 3D integration technologies have been the innovation flavor-of-the-month since long before the current economic disaster hit. Is it by pure coincidence that those companies who continued to push forward and invest in these technologies are the ones who were more resistant to the downturn virus? I’m talking about start-up companies like Alchimer, Replisaurus and Imbera, who managed to raise venture capital to develop their technologies; and established equipment manufacturers like SUSS MicroTec, Surface Technology Systems, and EV Group, who have all recently reported installs in both research and production settings. According to Steve Dwyer, director of sales, North America, EVG, in the past 3 weeks, EVG has received 6 tool orders for TSV processes in North America alone, 4 of which are headed for production lines, while the other two will go to research settings.
Although it may seem that the “Pollyannas” of the industry (myself included) have been dishing out the “innovate out of the downturn” mantra as a way to bolster morale, it’s not without basis. However, perhaps a more accurate explanation is that during a downturn, there is less time spent manufacturing and shipping product, and more time to focus on innovation. The companies who took advantage of that time seemed to be hit less badly by the downturn, and those who were already innovating and continued on that path were the most resistant to the effects of the downturn. After all as, Benjamin Franklin once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. – F.v.T