There is no shortage of topics for someone writing about sustainability in May. April went from having Earth Day to being earth month, with sustainability press releases on nearly a daily basis. A significant number of companies use April and May as their release dates for company responsibility reports with their updates on sustainability. Discussions regarding climate and energy rules seem to be highlighted more often, and the finalized rules for mandatory climate reporting in the United States are in the final stages of preparation for rollout. And finally, Greenpeace criticized TSMC for not having more renewable energy in its sustainability plans.

While all these topics would make for an interesting article, for this discussion we will focus on how the Semiconductor industry is helping itself find ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Later this year, I will likely circle back on the Greenpeace critique, as I have only seen the comments on the renewable focus of TSMCs sustainability plan, not TSMC’s massive CO2 reduction program.

The semiconductor industry has supported improving sustainability for several years. Corporate responsibility reports citing a focus on sustainability have been around for at least 10 years or longer. Several leading companies get As from CDP on their climate focus. As the focus on getting to net zero increased, semiconductor manufacturers struggled to find companies that were working in areas to reduce energy, chemical, or water consumption.

What is Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability?

Venture groups across the industry came together to support each other and create opportunities for sustainability startup companies to gain access to the semiconductor industry, one-on-one advice, and the potential for opportunities to test out their technology at scale. Thus, started the Semiconductor Sustainability start-up venture, which is now called Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability.

 Venture arms of key semiconductor companies joined forces to create SEMI's Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability.
Figure 1: Venture arms of key semiconductor companies joined forces to create Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability.

The first group of startup companies was announced at Semicon West in December 2021. We reported on the first group of startup companies that presented their technology and successes at SEMICON West in July of 2022.

One company Infinitum Electric, a new type of electric motor developer, recently received an Edison Award and is continuing to make significant progress to a motor that uses less energy to operate and uses less copper.

Françoise von Trapp has been hosting a series of podcasts with James Amano, Senior Director of EHS and Sustainability at SEMI that explores the experiences of finalists, and venture capitalists. If you haven’t had a chance to listen. You can find all three episodes here.

Most of the first-year participants are still in business, and making progress, while others, while still open to the semiconductor space, have chosen to focus on their core business ideas.

Figure 2: SEMI just announced the semifinalists for the 2023 Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability.
Figure 2: SEMI just announced the semifinalists for the 2023 Startups for Semiconductor Sustainability.

The sustainability focus for the 2023 group of venture startups is on:

Circularity, water, and waste management

  • Water – Increased water recycling rates on existing infrastructure via
    • Digital water solutions (for fast/simple access to water consumption data)
    • In-situ separation (economic steam segregation and advanced separation inside or adjacent to a specific process tool)
    • Drop-in efficiency (new membrane, filter, or technology that reduces the energy intensity of water treatment while fitting within existing treatment footprints)
  • Waste Management
    • Recycling
    • Waste stream reduction
    • Materials and processes designed for circularity

Emissions technology

  • Abatement
  • Alternative chemistries for wafer processing
  • Emissions detection/reduction/accounting tools

Energy efficiency

  • Decreased energy intensity for current and future production nodes
    • New designs, materials, or processes for fabrication throughput
    • Improved thermal management
    • Advanced power supply module
    • Innovative sensors and management software

This Year’s Finalists for Startups  for Semiconductor Sustainability


  • Blue Lake Packaging
  • ElectraMet
  • Enlipsium
  • FTD Solutions
  • harmony desalting
  • Purity ReSource
  • Sorbenta


  • CFEX
  • Innoflex
  • ISRL
  • Multiscale Technologies

Energy Efficiency

  • Aligned Carbon
  • AlixiLabs
  • Aqua Membranes
  • Corintis
  • Instrumems
  • L2X Labs
  • PingThings

The companies submitted applications and have undergone a vetting process by industry venture groups and SEMI. It will be interesting to see which of the semifinalists make it through this year. These companies will get an opportunity to present their ideas, and hopefully results of their proof-of-concept work for the semiconductor industry.

What I appreciate about how the industry VCs and SEMI have set up the program, is that the semifinalists are mentored and advised by the companies on how to tailor their product offering specifically for the semiconductor industry. Semifinalists are also advised on how to tailor their pitch to address the semiconductor audience.

Being a semifinalist also provides proof-of-concept opportunities, not to mention sales opportunities, during the process. The semifinalists also have companies that are potentially very interested in their technology during the semifinalist-to-finalist process. Since the Semiconductor Climate Consortia is up and running, hopefully, they will be looking at these companies for specific sustainability solutions. As a result, there is the potential for a strong partnership and the potential for follow-on support for the finalists’ post-Semicon West presentations. Which is a win-win for the semiconductor industry, and these startup’s sustainability ideas.

Dean Freeman

Dean W. Freeman, Chief Analyst at FTMA, has over 36 years of semiconductor manufacturing and…

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