RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
We have been an innovation leader for nearly 50 years. We have not only contributed to the remarkable advance of the semiconductor industry, we have shaped the industry itself. But 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 an unparalleled commitment to research and development (R&D). In 2014 and 2015, our net R&D investments were €64.7 million and €93.0 million respectively.
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. We maintain the widest and most diverse ALD development organization in the industry. We are active at all stages in its life cycle, from developing the basic chemistry to implementing solutions on our equipment at our customers’ production sites. Our research centers in Finland, the United States, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Belgium are all active in ALD development. We also work with specialists across a wide range of disciplines to develop our research goals, including from research institutes, universities and suppliers. However, our most important collaboration is with our global customers, with whom we co-create and jointly develop our technology roadmaps to bring new technologies and processes to market, faster. Such diversity means that we get the benefit of wider viewpoints while being able to bring together the best minds in the world to create new breakthroughs.
Going forward, we expect to continue to invest significantly in R&D to enhance our product offerings. 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 geographic 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.
Our global product development policies and local activities are for the most part directed towards expanding and improving present product lines to incorporate technology advances and reduce product cost, while simultaneously developing new products that can penetrate new markets. These activities require the application of physics, chemistry, materials science, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, precision mechanical engineering, software engineering, and systems engineering.
GLOBAL PLATFORM ENGINEERING GROUP
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, Almere and Helsinki have been grouped under Corporate R&D, addressing the common needs for advanced materials research and process integration work for the 10nm to 5nm nodes.
|Location||Number of R&D employees as of December 31, 2015, exclusive of temporary workers|
|Almere, the Netherlands||36|
|Phoenix, Arizona, United States||168|
|Cheonan, South Korea||63|
ARRANGEMENTS WITH CUSTOMERS, INSTITUTES & 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, 2015, 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 (for example imec in Belgium).
Mainly in Europe, 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 we are involved in roadmapping activities for the chapters on Process Technology and Integration. In the Netherlands we participate in projects focused on efficiency improvements for photovoltaic cells within the TKI Solar Energy Program.
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 2015 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 now a third five-year period, reaching into December 2018.
We contribute to several process and equipment development projects at the major Dutch technical universities though the Dutch FOM and STW funding organizations for fundamental and applied research.
As of year-end 2015, 420 employees were employed in R&D, representing 26% of our total staff.