Chartered Semiconductor believes the next IC upturn will be marked by more technology partnerships between foundries and other industry players. The Singapore-based foundry says outsourcing is promoting the trend.
Rob Baxter, senior vice-president for business operations, told Electronics Times: "Partnerships help IDMs [integrated device manufacturers] become fab-light or fabless. It's an extension of the outsourcing model. When the upturn does come back, foundries are likely to see a better side of the upturn."
The company already has a number of joint development activities with, for example, Agere Systems on 0.18µm technology and Agilent Technologies on 0.13µm.
And as customers increasingly use third party intellectual property (IP) or design tools, it says they therefore require foundries to license the same technology.
Chartered already offers design tools and IP libraries, and has also been consciously trying to accelerate its technology roadmap.
It expects its 0.1µm process to intersect with those of its larger rivals TSMC and UMC in Q42002. It is also developing mixed-signal and RF processes in line with core logic to capitalise on the convergence of communications with other electronic devices.
Allan Hughes, president of Chartered's European operations, said: "[Customers] expect us to be there for them with the solutions. In the past it was an annoyance. Customers asked, 'Do you have this licence, do you have that licence?' It's been an awakening for us in the past 12 to 18 months."
The company says one bright side to the downturn — which has seen its average capacity utilisation fall to between 20 and 30% — is that its engineers have had the time to develop technologies rather than having to focus on squeezing capacity.
John Martin, chief technology officer, said: "We feel much better on technology than we did a year or two ago. We are closing the gap [with our competitors] very rapidly."
Chartered has opened a sales office in Stockholm. It will be headed by Stefan Ahlquist, formerly of Motorola's Semiconductor Product group.