I noted the point about chips being funded by non-US non-VCs from places like China and India. This is definitely a trend to watch out for, as the source of the money tells us a great deal about the intentions of the project in any situation.
I have been saying same for a long time. I do not see the value in funding semiconductor companies. For all the troubles, no one likes them. Instagram was worth $1B with 5 staff with no bank account while Analog Devices with thousands of staff, $2b+ revenue, great products, history of innovation cannot cross $15B. If people value web firms more and VCs are in this to make money, the best roadmap is to fund web companies.
>> This is definitely a trend to watch out for, as the source of the money tells us a great deal about the intentions of the project in any situation.
The #1 reason is that in the last 10 years, no semiconductor company has had an exit of up to $1B. Dropbox is now worth $10B. So, if that trend continues, there is no reason to waste capital in semiconductor when web companies do better. China runs state capitalism and that means the profit is not just the motive. It is government money and I see them leading that path in years to come.
One of the main reasons for this situation is that there is a confusion between IMPROVEMENTS and true innovation. Improvements driven by Moore's Law have run their course. Thus, making CMOS smaller, albeit extremely successful, attained its peak and the FinFET/SOI paradigm is the exit point. Meanhile, devices are clearly stuck in the need for better memories, as the high scale of SoC integration is clearly the future, It is also a serious innovation bottleneck when we have FPGAs without Nonvolatile Memory at the higher node, poor endurance and no real power savings of High end FLASH and embedded devices with need of simpler and low cost nonvolatile memories. Add to that the needs to have lower cost solid state drives and the last hooray of DDR4-DRAM, and yes we seem to have no place to run. In the last 30 years, as DRAMs and FLASH had their run, the only two memories that were truly novel did NOT come out of Silicon Valley. These were the FeRAM (FRAM) and more recently STTRAM. Now, we have a few possibilities with CBRAM, CeRAM and a plethora of questionable electrochemical RRAM ( although I believe that all RRAMs based on filaments, including CBRAM (although it seems a bit more reasonable until you see their video in Youtube, showing a SILVER electrode injecting SILVER CLUSTERS!!!
Since I had something to do with FeRAM, a technology that never had enough funding and yet it has already put over 1.5 Billion chips in the Market (Ramtron, Fujitsu and Panasonic, now TI), I can say that today FeRAM is a good and mature response to embedded. Some confuse FRAM with FeRAM, so here is the difference: FRAM is based on PZT and FeRAM is based on SBT - Symetrix developed SBT for Panasonic and that is an extremely low power scalable device which can be made down to 25 nm thick and sports 10X less Power and more speed than FRAM). See next post - they limit size of text in EETIMES.
Today you may hear about CeRAM. And as a biased promoter of this technology, I invite you to take a look at symetriscorp web site. Why did I switch from FeRAM to CeRAM. FeRAMs can be further scale but CeRAMs are already here to produce a serious game changer in nonvolatile memories: CeRAM is an RRAM that uses Many-Body Physics - yes, that confusing world for those who only studied semiconductor and simple band theory and go around thinking that everything is a semiconductor. These guys are in the top positions in the Moore's Law based Semiconductor Companies. They do not understand that there has never really been a Semiconductor Based NVM. Shocking? yes, nonvolatility requires hysteresis of something inside the material: In FeRAM/FRAMs it is the polarization of ions; in STTR, is the polarization of spins, in FLASH, is the interface polarization of trapped charge in the floating gate, and in RRAMs of the filament type, including CBRAM, it is the local polarization of charge due to structural deformations between the filament and the electrodes - it may be charge trap dominated or just redox reactions. Let us not forget the other strutural changes device in the infamous PCM and the "Memrsitors".
Since there are only three intrinsic material components in nature (as visibly demonstrated in Maxwell's equation) - conductivity, dielectric constant and magnetic permeability (R,C,L), we have to look for HYSTERESIS (zero field/voltage with latent storage) in these properties. FeRAM/FRAM used C, STTRAM, L, and RRAMs and CeRAMs use sigma (conductivity). Now sigma is one of those size fits all grossly misunderstood properties. And, when sigma goes from zero (insulator) to a finite value (Metal like), everyone has a pet theory - and "filaments" have many poetic theoretical descriptions. But, Physicist for exactly 50 years (1963-2013) know what I am talking about. Metal-Insulator transitions that modify conductivity can be taylored to be essentially quantum switches with incredible speeds and low power. And, being quantum in a very fundamental way (the control of 1 electron entering and leaving a single orbital, and thus violating band theory drastically (known since 1937)), there is a chance that switches at 10's of femtoseconds speed with essentially extremely low power exists. For now, we can use these 1-2 masks devices with 100% CMOS friendliness for NVMs - they are simple to make have these bare (no high nodes done yet) characteristics: Storage Temperature of a Memory state= >400C;current density at operation: 3000A/cm2 (can be adjusted higher); Reading endurance - Virtually endless (tested to 1E12, no change); writing endurance: hard to measure but over 1E11 is predicted (hard to measure because of large areas in our devices -to low impedance for pulse testing) and operating temperatures from 4K (-260C) to 150 C (or more) - that is OPERATING, not just storing.
So, just like the individuals in the panel missed ferroelectrics when I wrote the first proposal in 1983, they may miss this one too. Why? because they are advised by old Detroit style know it alls that have a hammer and every problem is a nail. I spent 6 years developing the technology of CeRAM (Correlated electrons RAM) with my team and achieved issued patents issued world wide. Now is time to go into development. Now we will start to publish. Yes, it can do array only, 3D embodiment and it is over many materials platform. It is contact agnostic (Not just Platinum) and can be made at 250 C ALD deposition. Never heard of it? ask your CTO to explain Many-Body electron-electron interactions as the basis of switching and storage in transition metal oxides. If he can't, you are in Detroit in the 70's. Innovation is only true with Science- anything else brings only one or two generations of devices.
The decline of VC in semiconductors is not new, VC companies look for the big fast reward, whether dot.com or cloud risk is OK as long as there's a potential for big fast returns. Semiconductors is too mature now, too much work for too slow a return. There is clearly room for innovation with the diminishing return of improvements from shinking geometries.
If the hypothesis is that semiconductor innovation requires VC investment in semiconductor manufacturing, I disagree. I believe that besides a huge increase of R&D by the larger existing semiconductor providers, a new model of innovation is the proliferation of small IP developers with bright new ideas. Many won't make it, but some offer large returns as their licensee portfolio grows or they get gobbled by a large semiconductor market leader.
I know of one that has been in development for years and has product launch on March 5th, but remains in stealth mode prior. I believe it would clearly evidence a counter argument. If possible to contact me directly I can discuss with you prior to launch?
The wealth is now in the vertical system play and the wealthy leaders in this space have an opportunity to capture innovation with a spin-in approach. It also makes sense with the trend towards specialisation - they chose the innovations that meet their very specific needs. There can be no Internet of Things without the Things. Start-ups need to look to the Apples and Microsofts as new venture money and these behemoths need to embrace the best of the start-ups as spin-ins.