They are tiny pieces of technology, yet semiconductor chips are what we all depend on when we pick up our phones or use the internet. They drive the ongoing digital revolution – part of the reason why the sector demonstrated such resilience when Covid-19 hit, leaving most other industries battered. In fact, the pandemic accelerated digitisation trends, bumping the industry onto the fast track. So how is the sector preparing for the boom ahead? We ask those leading the charge.
Growing our talent base
“Over the next three to five years, we will bring on board even more young talent and will continue to invest in training and grooming them. It is not sufficient to learn how to design innovative integrated chips from books – you need hands-on experience and the chance to go through an entire design cycle. That’s why bringing talent in early and exposing them to our state-of-the-art R&D workflow is a key part of our strategy. We usually take in 30 to 40 interns a year, and offer scholarships – whether our own or the SgIS – to up to a third of them. Our interns do real work and know that six or 12 months down the road, their contributions could become a market-ready chip in the latest 5G handsets, gaming consoles, or seven of every 10 television sets made worldwide.” – Heng Bun Suan, General Manager, MediaTek Singapore
Super-cycle, super opportunities
“We believe the industry will be in a super-cycle of expansion until 2023. That is why we’re expanding in capability, headcount and space. In the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, growth came from single technological developments. Today, there are multiple growth drivers – from 5G and data storage to autonomous vehicles. Our equipment are the eyes and measurement tools that ensure processes for chip manufacturing remain precise, and the smaller chips get, the more measurements are needed. For any engineering graduate, being part of this is an exciting prospect. We’re now over 800-strong and in 2020, we added 75 more people. We will add another 100 people in the first half of 2021. We’ve also expanded to a second facility that we’re fitting out and moving into as we speak, are starting up new product lines for next-gen products that will launch out of Singapore, and will continue to invest 15 to 20% of our revenue in R&D.” – Theo Kneepkens, Senior Vice President Global Operations at KLA
Readying for the next bandwidth milestones
“Our Singapore site has been expanding to support the rapidly growing need for bandwidth. The Covid-19 pandemic has really accelerated this demand. People had to be well connected for remote work and in addition, consumed bandwidth for things like entertainment, shopping and social interactions. Bandwidth for remote education – an untapped market – also went through the roof. As the demand for bandwidth continues to grow exponentially, Inphi is moving towards the next frontiers in bandwidth growth, including working with Inphi teams around the world on the next generation integrated circuits, as well as electro-optics platform solutions that dramatically increase data bandwidth in the cloud. We ensure available bandwidth can be used more efficiently by products that consume lower power, operate at higher speeds, and are smaller in size. This requires a mix of experienced and young engineers who bring creativity to an elite team of technical engineers. We are creating technology that changes how the world moves data.” – Radha Nagarajan, CTO & SVP, Inphi
R&D to create real-life magic
“R&D will remain an important focus for us in Singapore as we work to make life easier, safer, and greener in the areas of mobility, energy efficiency and security. We are working closely with our global R&D teams to develop solutions for the next wave of digital innovation. For instance, we are developing the complex microcontrollers that will enable autonomous driving in cars of the future. We create the kinds of wonderful things people see in movies and don’t realise will be real-life technologies four or five years down the road – it looks like magic, but there is serious science behind it. Within Infineon, diversity in gender, age, background and mindset also helps drive even better solutions for our future.” – Jerome Tjia, VP and Head of the Singapore Development Centre, Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific
Prepping Ground Zero of our digital future
“Our industry is ground zero in enabling the amazing possibilities of a digital future. ASMPT makes the hardware and software that our customers use to make computer chips and the myriad complex electronic components that make up nearly every modern electronic or computing device. We also support newer technologies, such as 5G infrastructure, silicon photonics and advanced LED technologies. As silicon chips become even smaller and more difficult and expensive to develop and produce, one area that is especially exciting is Advanced Packaging (AP), the next frontier in electronic component manufacturing. Our AP solutions help customers create, combine and connect the many modules and systems that serve various device functions. A wide range of current and potential AP markets are enabled by ASMPT’s AP solutions – from the wearables, vehicles and data centres of today, to emerging areas in AI, telemedicine, and connected homes. The greater number, variety and requirements for the electronics component powering these areas of growth will demand more sophisticated packaging solutions.” – Robin Ng, Group CEO, ASM Pacific Technology
Empowering our teams
“At ams, we work on cutting edge technologies in a market environment that is dynamic and requires continuous innovation. It means our employees must be highly skilled and well-trained, but also commit to lifelong learning. Coaching and empowerment will be key to how we get the best out of our teams, as will customised training and the right job assignments. Empowerment ensures that the best ideas win, and also makes for great job satisfaction. The right amount of coaching and an open-feedback culture guarantees that we all learn from each other and that experience is passed down to less senior colleagues. – Dr Steffen Koehler, Vice President, Module & Component Engineering, ams Sensors Singapore Pte. Ltd.