SAN JOSE, Calif., June 10 -- The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) this week called for creation of a Nanoelectronics Research Institute to direct and coordinate a massive research effort to assure continued US leadership in information technology after current semiconductor technology faces insurmountable physical limits.
"Most researchers believe that CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology will encounter such limits in 15 years," the SIA said in a statement. After that time, it said, the ability to deliver continuous improvements in information technology will require the use of new materials and devices with features so small that they are measured in a few nanometers. (One nanometer is one one-billionth of a meter.)
John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and group executive of the IBM Technology Group, who spoke at an SIA Leadership Luncheon in Redwood City, Calif., yesterday, said, "The price for not starting now on a massive, coordinated research and development effort in nanoelectronics could be nothing less than a loss, in just two decades, of US economic and defense leadership. The ability to collect, analyze and distribute information is essential to virtually every productive human endeavor in today's world."
The Nanoelectronics Research Institute (NRI) proposed by the SIA would be a joint effort of the semiconductor industry, academia and government.
Kelly said economic prosperity and high-value jobs have come from decades of leading revolutions in mainframe computing, personal computing, wireless connectivity and Internet technologies. "All of this, and the resulting increases in productivity, have been driven by the relentless engine of making semiconductors smaller, more powerful and less expensive."
He said US research and development efforts in semiconductor technology now face an annual shortfall of approximately $1.5 billion compared to the investment necessary just to stay current with the CMOS technology roadmap outlined in International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). The ITRS is a plan that identifies technical obstacles (known in the industry as "red brick walls") that must be overcome in order to continue historical patterns of advances in semiconductor technology. Since the mid-1960s, advances in semiconductor technology have followed "Moore's Law," which postulates that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years. Kelly said the R&D shortfall is even larger if the effort needed to develop technology beyond CMOS is included.
SIA estimates that the U.S. semiconductor industry has approximately 163,000 employees in the US with an average annual total compensation of $97,000. If research investment is insufficient to support continuation of technological advances in accordance with Moore's Law, the semiconductor engine driving productivity gains will slow down, or perhaps even stall, with adverse consequences for job creation, economic prosperity, and national defense, the assocation said.
Kelly and the SIA stressed the importance of maintaining US leadership in information technology in the era beyond CMOS. "The US must be a leader in innovation," said Kelly. "The US cannot compete in an arena where low-cost labor is the differentiating factor. Constant innovation is the key to being competitive while paying high wages to our workforce."
For more information, visit: www.sia-online.org