Speaking at the launch of Texas Instruments’ new Silicon Valley labs on Tuesday (March 13), TI executives rallied to deliver one clear message: that true innovation, at its core, would always be a disruptive force, and that TI was committed to playing a big part in both creating and harnessing that destruction.
It was an interesting message from a company deemed to be among the more conservative in the technology industry. But with a proven track record of patents in its wake, TI has been innovating, in one way or another, for well over 50 years.
“Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum or on an island,” noted Greg Lowe, TI’s senior vice president of analog.“It takes a great deal of collaboration with universities, institutes, organizations, and Silicon Valley is a hotbed of innovation,” he added.
While the Valley certainly is an incubator for some of the more cutting edge tech projects today, what TI-- in its steady, level-headed way—hopes to bring to the table is more of a holistic, system level approach to research and development.
“Our goals at TI are quite simplistic,” said Lowe, noting that, first and foremost, the firm wanted to grow its business. Looking beyond that simple fact, however, Lowe admitted that in today’s fast-paced world of disruptive innovation, everything comes down to how to make a difference. “We want to make that difference in how and what we research,” he said.
Part of that, of course, comes from the team up that resulted from the acquisition of National Semiconductor last year, which Lowe maintains gives a stronger foundation to the engineers from both companies looking to continue innovating in analog “in ways we can just imagine.”
The firm also announced several initiatives with local universities, which Lowe said he sincerely hoped would help engineering students build a solid foundation in analog and reignite a passion for hardware engineering, as much of the glamor slipped away into the software side of the business.
“We’re even more committed to play a big part in the Valley,” added Ahmad Baha, TI’s CTO of analog. Bahai said he believes that now is the most exciting time to be in the electronics business.
“Even grandmas today are so comfortable using their iPhones, people aren’t afraid of embracing new technologies,” he said, noting that this had really added impetus to TI’s drive to become even more disruptive.
“We need disruptive innovation to drive this train or we’re going to hit a brick wall,” he said, adding that this was especially important on the semiconductor and hardware side of the business. “The bedrock of technology, the hardware side, is just not attracting top talent anymore,” he said, citing stats to show that the average return on investment from software is about 4.7x, while ROI from hardware is a rather paltrier 1.2x.
“We’re losing talent to software and apps,” said Bahai, reminding the engineers in the room that innovation was no longer simply about chasing Moore’s Law, but about pushing beyond it to improve overall efficiency and power of the plethora of new devices hitting the market.
“Most devices are not really benefitting from scaling,” said Bahai, noting that this is where he would like to see more disruptive innovation from Texas Instruments engineers.