In an article in Semiconductor International, a group in New York apparently has gotten word of a proposal to the State of New York for funding for 450mm development and has expressed their opposition. In the article, the group expresses concern that the funding for 450mm research and development would not benefit companies doing business or manufacturing inside New York State.
With College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and SEMATECH being centers of research in New York State, it would seem that funding for research in 450mm to occur would be a natural request. However, the opposition has an interesting argument in their concern about lack of benefits for New York residents. Previous government funding efforts in the US, including the original SEMATECH effort in the mid-to-late 1980’s had significant, direct benefit for the constituents being taxed for the funding. These benefits were much easier to argue at a national level – and funding was therefore nationalistic in nature. Additionally, “in-kind contribution” by the donation of facilities by the University of Texas, had direct benefit for the local and state economy. Funding from New York State has a more difficult direct value proposition for its constituents unless one of the proponents, makes a legitimate commitment to construct a 450mm fab in the state.
To date, we haven’t been informed of any government-funded projects for 450mm research and development. There has been a call from the European Commission for proposals that could include such funding; however, there is no positive news on actual funding from Europe yet. Funding for 450mm research in Europe might seem to stand at odds with the prospect of there ever being a 450mm fab owned by a European chipmaker. However, when viewed from the aspect of keeping their suppliers in the running for eventual 450mm orders, if and when they occur, does add some logic to the prospect.
Identifying specific research and development projects that would benefit both 300mm fabs and potential 450mm fabs would be the most prudent use of ever scarce R&D resources if one were to propose 450mm R&D funding. Some of these might include studies to improve the speed of lithography scanning, ion implant, and inspection, as only one example. Speeding these steps up improves the manufacturing effectiveness of existing fabs, and addresses one of the largest productivity bottlenecks facing 450mm – the speed at which “beam” tools can process a given amount of area per hour.
The deeper question in all of this is “What about the impact to the market itself?” Funding for basic research can help a nascent industry to evolve. However, 450mm doesn’t really fall in the realm of basic, university-based research. And it clearly benefits just a few chipmakers (3 to be exact). Some companies, such as IBM and GLOBALFOUNDARIES, who either have or are building a fab in New York, actually stand to be hurt by 450mm if they are not able to afford a estimated $US 10B fab if and when the industry transitions. Additionally, no major OEMs with manufacturing facilities inside New York would benefit. Granted, the “tens of millions” of dollars mentioned in the article will not go a long way towards the estimated $US 25B needed in research funding, but should the State of New York be in the business of picking winners (those who can afford a 450mm fab), particularly if the winners and known to not reside in the state?
So, what do you think? Should the State of New York fund 450mm development?