Taiwan’s semiconductor industry faces multiple challenges, from the need to conduct further research into forward-looking technologies to a shortage of talent, an industry executive said on Wednesday.
Advancing forward-looking semiconductor research and nurturing talent require long-term joint efforts by the industry, government and academia, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) corporate research director Marvin Chang (張孟凡) said.
Chang outlined the challenges in a speech at a semiconductor forum organized by the National Science and Technology Council (NTSC) in Hsinchu.
Photo: Wu Po-hsuan, Taipei Times
Noting that manufacturers have been deploying fin field-effect transistor (FinFET) technology for more than a decade to develop advanced microprocessors, Chang said nanosheet is the next promising technology likely to go beyond the performance limitations of FinFET.
Complementary field-effect transistors, which has great potential to transcend 3-nanometer technology, and carbon nanotubes — nanoscale hollow tubes composed of carbon atoms — might also be developed, he said.
However, the academic sector will have to lead in exploring the benefits of these emerging technologies, he said.
Taiwan used to focus on short-term semiconductor development, but given its position as a world leader in semiconductors, the government and enterprises should attach greater importance to the mid to long-term research and development (R&D) of new technologies, he added.
Other than making breakthroughs in the miniaturization of transistors, developing the manufacturing technology to produce three-dimensional integrated circuits (3DICs) that fully utilize and optimize silicon across all three dimensions to perform system-level integration with a smaller package size and higher interconnection density is also important, Chang said.
The technology offers big payoffs in performance, power and area, Chang said, referring to the three variables used in deciding how to optimize chip designs.
However, Taiwan has a short supply of workers in this area and in electronic design automation, he said.
Cooperation between TSMC’s manufacturing process R&D and design teams continues to increase, with the participation rate of its designers in 3-nanometer process R&D having reached 50 percent and is expected to continue rising, he said.
The demand for semiconductor talent is not limited to a single field, Chang said.
For example, TSMC needs more people in research and development, operations technology, strategy and support, he added.
Moreover, while FinFET architecture has been deployed for more than a decade, academic research is still confined to traditional transistor architecture, he said.
This illustrates the large gap between academic research and industrial applications, given the expenditure needed to train new recruits, he added.
Meanwhile, NSTC Minister Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠) said that Taiwan needs to reinforce development of its IC design industry, one of the main sources of industrial applications and the driving force for the development of the semiconductor industry.
The council plans to set up a semiconductor base in Europe to attract international IC design talent and send them to Taiwan, he said.
The government aims to build Taiwan into an international IC design center by 2035 through interministerial cooperation, he added.
Taiwan’s IC design industry ranks second in the world and needs high-quality engineering talent, MediaTek Inc (聯發科) senior corporate vice president Lawrence Loh (陸國宏) said.
Voicing his concern over Taiwan’s lower numbers of engineers compared with the US, Europe, China and South Korea, Loh suggested that Taiwan consider recruiting foreign professionals to the country, setting up research and development bases overseas, and continuing to encourage Taiwanese talent overseas to return home.
He also said the country should prevent foreign businesses from poaching Taiwan’s top-end IC design talent.
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