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China's FD-SOI plan: A mystery yet to be revealed

Posted: 07 Apr 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Soitec  FinFET  FD-SOI  more than Moore 

News these days is dotted with seemingly ubiquitous topics that include Donald Trump, Apple, global economy, and the like. However, FD-SOI seems to never make it to the headlines, or side lines, at the very least.

As a reporter, I find writing about 'hot' companies, technologies and people much easier than the more technical subjects I often cover. As I write about these trendy topics, I actually feel momentum rising. With every media outlet doggedly chasing the same stick, there's no need to explain to readers why I'm writing this and why it's important to them.

Donald Trump, Apple and FinFET come to mind.

In contrast, it's far more challenging to write about underdogs, topics fewer people talk about. Some readers, often, have already made up their mind, that these topics don't matter to them.

In short, it's a hard sell.

At EE Times, in the semiconductor field, I find fully depleted silicon on insulator (FD-SOI) is just such an underdog topic—undervalued, underestimated, neglected. It generates geographically-divided opinions, comments and innuendo. This is predictable, because FD-SOI is a less travelled road for many engineers in the chip industry.

As a reporter, I'm no judge. Obviously, I have no skin in the game.

But as I follow people, companies and technologies outside Silicon Valley, I've observed the twists and turns of the FD-SOI story. They're pretty interesting.

Soitec goes to China

China, it turns out, is where FD-SOI's latest development is quietly unfolding.

Last month, Soitec, a French company that specialises in developing and manufacturing semiconductor materials, went to China. Its top executives discussed with locals everything China should know about FD-SOI technology.

In its 40-page power-point presentation, one slide briefly mentioned Soitec's financial partnership with China's National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG).

NSIG, as it turns out, is poised to hold 14.5 per cent of Soitec later this year.

Apparently, the local media ran with this revelation and stirred conversation about FD-SOI's potential future in China. It's too early to predict whether FD-SOI will be accepted in China, but this investment is the much-needed first step in China that Soitec, along with those in the FD-SOI ecosystem, have been waiting for.

NSIG (based in Shanghai) shouldn't be confused with China's so-called 'Big Fund' (China's government funds for national IC development). NSIG is a Chinese investment platform, formed by the Big Fund only five months ago. It's supported by five shareholders including Sino IC Capital, Shanghai Guosheng Group, Summit View Capital, Shanghai SIMIC and Jiading Industry Development Group.

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