The Semiconductor Industry Association stiffens its spine.
Products are the lifeblood of our industry, and a constant stream of new innovation coming out of universities is the mother’s milk. But as our products become increasingly sophisticated, the need for better-educated engineering grads intensifies.
How do election results and engineering grads fit together?
There’s a real concern that tea party sentiment fueling a wave of budget cuts will hamstring the industry. In other words, if Congress enacts sweeping budget cuts, the fear is that university R&D will fall victim.
Ray Stata, founder of Analog Devices who will be the SIA’s chairman for the coming year, said the SIA and its new president, Brian Toohey, are already in discussion with Republican leaders to communicate the industry’s agenda.
“The complexity of the products we make today demand Ph.Ds,” Stata said. “You can’t outsource Ph.Ds.”
This higher education “machine is really working. It’s the jewel in the crown of this country.” It’s not a budget line item, but an investment in the future, Stata said.
He cited a study that found that living MIT alumni (he’s one of them) have started 25,000 companies, tallied up $2.2 trillion in sales while employing 3.3 million people.
Choke off R&D, and you choke off innovation and jobs, Toohey said.
“There’s a conflict between deficit policy and jobs,” Stata said.
That’s why Stata, Toohey and many of the diners were cheered by Tuesday’s elections results. As the industry picks itself up from the beat-down of the last few years, executives sense an opening.
Altera CEO John Daane, the normally even-keeled outgoing SIA chairman, thundered from the ballroom stage the need to:
Maintain R&D spending
Ease taxes on off-shore profits to build more manufacturing domestically
Re-energize the R&D tax credit and
Level the playing field with China.
To top off this revival session, the keynoter was conservative columnist George Will, whose picture of a dystopian future for America was gripping, if grim.
The crowd, many of whom frankly have been living off their press clippings and stock gains for a long time, approved.
What does it mean for you?
If you’re entrepreneur (and a majority of you aspire to be one), you’re energized. You see an industry association that's stiffened its spine and you sniff the prospects for building a company with your innovation on a competitive playing field.
If you're a product-line manager, you like what you hear.You're under constant pressure to innovate and you need the means to do it.
If you’re a longtime engineer, you've heard it all before. You’re still frustrated by stagnant wages, the prospect of a new flood of engineering competition vying for your job at a lower salary, the specter of continued off-shoring, and entrenched industry management that thinks more of investors than of employees.
However you lean, it’s going to be an interesting time. Toohey is new to the SIA (he comes from the pharmaceuticals industry), and the organization has moved its headquarters to D.C. to be nearer the action.
Here's hoping we see good news for all three of those cohorts in the coming months.
The degree to which change will happen is proportional to the degree to which engineers get involved in the political process. At the last SIA dinner I attended the speakers practically begged the audience to get involved more in politics. Engineers tend to eschew politics and dismiss politicians. You don't see too many in Congress that are EEs. Mostly they're lawyers or doctors. Mr. Ottelini asking for reduced taxes is good. But real change will only happen when EEs A: Start leveraging their collective strength and B: Start running for office and making logical changes from within. In many ways engineers show their intelligence by not get involved in politics. But we may be too smart for our own good.
Although she lost in the recent election, physicist Ruth McClung's recent Congressional campaign in Arizona's 7th district might make an interesting article for EE Times.
She is obviously bright, articulate, and principled.
She was running against one of the more Leftist members of the U.S. Congress, Raul Grijalva.
Congressman Grijalva also happens to co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), who many acknowledge represents the left-wing of the Democratic Party.
I would love to have heard George Will's speech to the SIA. Is the audio or text posted anywhere?
I guess that I don't understand why the Tea Party's push for fiscal restraint is any more damaging to the semiconductor industry than the federal government's runaway spending. I don't believe that anybody in the Tea Party is pushing for brainless cuts (although certainly some in Congress certainly will). The SIA should be an advocate for intelligent policy. This should include budget prioritization, an improved and modernized education system, a modernized taxation system that makes up competitive with our international partners and rivals, fact-based cost-benefit analysis of federal policy, etc., etc. Frankly, many U.S. government policies are counterproductive to our national security and our sustained economic success.
Patrick Mannion's post is also on point. The United States needs more engineers in the political process. Most engineers comprehend complex systems, understand how various components of the system interact, understand how to apply worst-case scenarios, understand cost-benefit analysis, and understand how to optimize a system. Unfortunately, most engineers also avoid the B.S. of politics like it is the Plague.
Here's an interesting piece from "The Economist" on the various paths to political power in different countries.
"There was a lawyer, an engineer and a politician...: Why do professional paths to the top vary so much?"
When politicians ever come to making cuts, it winds up as a game of getting the other guy's favorite programs under the axe. In the end, programs without a champion or large voter support, whose patrons have retired or died, get whacked. Or as NYU's Nouriel Rabini called spending restraint proposals in the latest State of the Union by President Obama (01/25, 2011), "spare change." With the Tea Party, we'll see if they'll go to extremes of a) finding out that some of their own favorite programs are in the cross-hairs and move to save them (i.e., same old, same old) or b) go wild with the axes, which is the fear reflected in speakers cited in this article.
Excellent points, Steven and Patrick. It's easy to see why politics isn't in the engineer's DNA: it's too ephemeral.It's about as unscientific as pursuits get!
But I also wonder whether engineers are any different in their lack of political engagement than, say, auto workers. If engineers had a national union, would they too have a powerful voice/lobby? Probably. If auto workers didn't have a union, they'd probably be in the same boat as engineers.
It takes money to run for office. Where are common engineers going to get the money from ? Please. This is all wishful thinking.
What we need is campaign finance reform and public funding for elections. Drain the swamp of evil influence of money in politics.
Absolutely Steve, "engineers comprehend complex systems, ... understand how to optimize a system. Unfortunately," that's the beginning of the argument.The political divide in this country is not going to end anytime soon. Any solution that an engineer in politics comes up with will have a short lifespan. And if he comes anywhere near one of the social issues, his career will be short as well.
Engineers will have to find other ways of exerting political influence without running for office.
Some great posts. Bob is absolutely right: the political divide is not going to end anytime soon (and if it did, we'd shortly find that there are some very good reasons to bring it back). And it doesn't look like the auto workers had a particularly great solution either - look what happened to many of them in the past couple of years. It is useful to keep in mind that, politically speaking, engineers are divided in their opinions of what is needed just as are the rest of the citizenry.
Engineers can exert political influence in the same ways that other citizens do - write, email, call your congresspersons and get involved in the election process.
Higher, faster, stronger. That's the olympics motto... right?
Looks like that applies to life as well. In this competitive world now the product development demands for even stronger andmore capable people. PhD's. Is it really that or is it that education has become more common and that there are more Doctor's out there looking for a job?
I think is a little bit of both. Product are indeed becoming more complex and the new technologies are even so as nanothecnology is becoming the latest and greatest trend. Genetics also demands for highly qualified specialists. As a father it appears we must really encourage our youngs to study more and study hard.
IEEE is actively working to undermine US EE's.
They fly a "friend" of mine all over the world to help outsource US EE jobs.
If you're an IEEE member, contact them and demand they stop doing it.
He helps places like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia set up EE departments, including Ph.D. programs, which the IEEE accredits so that companies can make sure they can replace US EE's with foreign ones without missing a beat and they do all this with our hard earned money we pay as dues.
Contact the IEEE and demand they stop using our dues to outsource our jobs.
This line is the kicker: "and the organization has moved its headquarters to D.C. to be nearer the action"
Whenever a trade association has to move to Washington to be near the action is a BIG warning flag.
To my knowledge - there is no semiconductor Industry "action" in Washington.