RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
We have been an innovation leader for nearly 50 years. We are not only contributing to the remarkable advance of the semiconductor industry, we are shaping the industry itself. This success, and our future success, is largely dependent on our ability to develop new products and processes and to improve the features of existing products. Achieving this requires a large commitment to research and development (R&D). In 2015 and 2016, our R&D investment were €95.3 million and €101.5 million respectively. As of year-end 2016, 447 employees were employed in R&D, representing 27% of our total staff.
As a global company, we carry out R&D on different continents, giving us access to some of the smartest professionals working in the semiconductor sector today. In our research centers in Finland, the United States, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Belgium we are active at all stages of our innovations’ life cycle, from developing the basic chemistry to implementing solutions on our equipment at our customers’ production sites. We also work with specialists across a wide array of disciplines to develop our research goals, including scientists from research institutes, universities, and suppliers.
With our R&D activities chiefly conducted in the principal semiconductor markets of the world, we are able to draw on innovative and technical capabilities internationally. Each geographical center provides expertise for specific products or technologies. This approach, combined with the interactions between the individual centers, enables efficient allocation of technical resources and customer interaction during development.
Under the umbrella of global product development policies, our local activities are directed both towards expanding and improving present product lines to incorporate technology advances and reduce product cost, as well as developing new products for existing and new markets. These activities require the application of physics, chemistry, materials science, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, precision mechanical engineering, software engineering, and systems engineering.
However, the most important collaborations we have are those with our global customers, with whom we co-create and jointly develop our technology roadmaps, and enabling new technologies and processes at the time our customers need them. The diversity in collaborations ranging from research and suppliers to customers means that we can bring together the best minds in the world to create new breakthroughs.
GLOBAL PLATFORM ENGINEERING GROUP AND CORPORATE R&D
In 2010 we formed a global Platform Engineering group that addresses the needs for common platforms for the various products in our wafer processing product portfolio. Selected resources in Leuven, Belgium and Helsinki, Finland have been grouped under Corporate R&D, addressing the common needs for advanced materials research and process integration work for the 7nm, 5nm and 3nm nodes, and even beyond.
|Location||Number of R&D employees as of December 31, 2016, exclusive of temporary workers|
|Almere, the Netherlands||34|
|Phoenix, Arizona, United States||185|
|Cheonan, South Korea||69|
ARRANGEMENTS WITH CUSTOMERS, INSTITUTES AND UNIVERSITIES
As part of our research and development activities, we are engaged in various formal and informal arrangements with customers, institutes and universities. As of December 31, 2016, we were engaged in several formal joint development programs with customers for 300mm applications of our products. As part of these efforts, we may sell new products to customers at a significantly reduced margin, and invest significant resources in the joint development and subsequent product qualification.
Additionally, we also occasionally cooperate with other semiconductor capital equipment suppliers in complementary fields, in order to gain knowledge on the performance of our own deposition processes, in cooperation with other processes, either in bilateral or in publicly funded projects.
In addition to cooperating with customers and other capital equipment suppliers, we also enter into research projects with technical universities and institutes. In 2011 we renewed our strategic R&D partnership with the Interuniversity Micro-Electronics Center (imec) in Leuven, Belgium. Our Epsilon, A412, Pulsar, EmerALD, Dragon, and Eagle-based products are involved in this partnership. From 2012 through 2016, we significantly expanded our partnership with additional ALD and epitaxy capability. This gives us the opportunity to investigate, both jointly and independently, the integration of individual process steps in process modules and electrically active devices. We have partnered with imec since 1990, with significant on-site representation since 1994.
In December 2003, we commenced a five-year partnership with the University of Helsinki that aims to further develop atomic layer deposition processes and chemistries. This partnership was extended for a second and then a third five-year period, extending into December 2018.
We participate in publicly funded programs to research and develop the production technology for semiconductor devices with line widths of 7nm and below, and in 'more than Moore' technologies. We are also involved in several cluster development programs in the Eureka initiative, as an active member of the AENEAS association as mentor or reviewer, and in roadmapping activities.
We contribute to several process and equipment development projects at the major Dutch technical universities through the Dutch FOM and STW funding organizations for fundamental and applied research.