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TSMC boosts R&D efforts

Posted: 08 Jun 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:R&D engineering  design technology  design flows  R&D costs 

Chip foundry TSMC has said it plans to invest its way out of the current economic downturn, but it is also appealing to other integrated device makers and other stakeholders to share in R&D costs to help raise profit margins across the semiconductor industry.

TSMC plans to spend Rs.7,348.04 crore ($1.5 billion) on capital expenditure in 2009 and is adding more than 400 R&D and design technology engineers, according to Maria Marced, president of TSMC Europe. TSMC's global R&D engineering headcount is now budgeted to go up by 30 per cent from 1,200 people. The 600 design technology engineers who work on design flows and assembling and test intellectual property are going to be joined by an extra 90 engineers as soon as possible.

Marced said that the announcement of an R&D base in Europe for TSMC but based at IMEC's research centre with its EUV lithography capability—where TSMC is already involved in the CoreCMOS collaborative research programme was indicative of that. "Collaboration is a must. It saves waste and can increase profit for the whole industry," said Marced.

TSMC is prepared to provide some of its home-grown technology to the industry for the sake of interoperability and speeding up development for customers, said Marced. Licencing at zero-cost the format used to present data within TSMC process development kits, was one example of how far TSMC is prepared to go, Marced said. That licencing is open to all, including direct competitors, she added.

As an example of TSMC's eagerness to enable the supply chain at the leading-edge, some 70 per cent of TSMC's expected Rs.7,348.04 crore ($1.5 billion) capex for 2009 is to build 40-nm production capacity. "However, we also have to put more emphasis on the mainstream, on design and back-end technology," Marced said.

Mainstream is TSMC's code for more diverse process variants away from the leading-egde, which often gets called More than Moore, as it includes, analogue, RF, MEMS, which do not benefit simply from scaling geometry.

The European R&D base at IMEC is set to participate in both these areas.

"This year we will be less than 10 people there but we will be more than that next year," said Marced. The topics of interest for TSMC's European R&D include advanced CMOS at 28-nm and 22-nm, and the development of modules, mainstream technology and phase-change memory.

Phase-change memory work to date has been done in a separate joint R&D programme with NXP, the chip company formed by a spin-off from Philips.

-Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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