SANTA CLARA, Calif. The United States still holds the lead in IC design capabilities, but the question is for how much longer?
At the Taiwan + China Semiconductor Outlook conference here on Thursday (Jan. 12), government leaders and chip executives warned that the U.S. is losing its competitiveness in IC design and technology in general to China, India and other nations.
For now, however, the U.S. is still leading in IC design, said Ford Tamer, senior vice president and general manager of the Networking Infrastructure Group at Broadcom Corp.
“We have a very big edge,” Tamer said at the event. “The design capabilities [in the United States] are way ahead of the capabilities in China. But I’m not worried about today. I’m worried about 4-to-10 years from now.”
One of the big concerns at the event is the trend in education, which has a direct impact on a nation’s ability to compete in the market. If the current education trends continue, some 90 percent of the world’s engineers and scientists will reside in Asia by 2010, warned David McCormick, under secretary for the Bureau of Industry & Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce, during a presentation at the event.
“We must improve our education system,” McCormick said. At the event, he also said the United States is making steady progress to simplify the export-control process for the U.S. IC-equipment industry in China, although there is still “room for improvement” in the arena.
Meanwhile, the U.S. faces some huge challenges to maintain its competitiveness. In 2004, there were 352,000 students who graduated with technical degrees in China, said Rick Tsai, president and chief executive of silicon foundry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), at the event. The degrees include engineering, computer sciences and information technology, Tsai said.
In comparison, there were 137,000 students who graduated with technical degrees in the U.S. in 2004, he said. India had 112,000 graduates, while Taiwan had 67,000 in the same year, he added.
Earlier this week, the TSMC executive took some surprising and subtle pot shots at the IC-equipment industry, urging vendors to improve their overall costs, lead times, and productivity levels. Tsai was especially critical about the soaring costs for lithography tools, lack of advancements in fab-automation, among other issues.