Interview conducted by Stuart Milne
Ray Morgan, director of Outreach, SEMI Americas, talks to AZoNano about startups, venture capitalists, and the upcoming Silicon Innovation Forum at SEMICON West 2014.
SM: What is the current climate for technology startups to access venture capital money? Is it harder or easier for emerging semiconductor equipment and materials companies to get money for innovation?
RM: Over the past decade, funding sources for technology startups have declined significantly. In the San Francisco Bay area, an area with a rich history in technology innovation, seed-stage investments dropped 67 percent from last year according to the latest Money Tree Report. A total of $9.5 million was invested by VCs in the first quarter of this year with over 42% invested in software deals. Investment in semiconductor equipment and materials has increasingly been crowded out by VC’s interest in software, media and entertainment and biotechnology segments.
Although the demands for innovative technologies continue to grow, it is difficult for tech startups to break in. The venture capital spotlight just has not been focused on the resurgence in semiconductor innovation needed to keep up with Moore’s Law.
SM: What is the Silicon Innovation Forum and how does it address the problems that technology startups encounter?
RM: Introduced at SEMICON West 2013, The Silicon Innovation Forum (SIF) was devised to help accelerate R&D in our industry, and to encourage continued innovation from new sources. This year SEMICON West 2014 will offer the same platform for new and emerging innovators, industry leaders and strategic investors.
The idea is to prime the industry’s innovation engine, remove barriers and connect visionaries – both technological and fiduciary.
Ultimately, participants will gain insights into technology, capital, partnership, and collaboration strategies necessary for mutual success.
SM: What are the programs and highlights of the SIF this year?
RM: As a professional in high tech with twenty years experience, I’m looking forward to an outstanding program. The SIF begins with a closed session “Investor Pitch” session for innovators and investors only. It’s a great opportunity as showcase participants present directly to a panel of investors, including capital and venture professionals from Intel, Micron, Dow Chemical, TEL, Applied Ventures, Samsung and BASF.
After a break for lunch, the general session will begin and is open to all SEMICON West attendees. I’m excited about this year’s SIF Keynote speaker Bob Metcalfe. If there was ever a champion of innovation, it’s Bob Metcalfe, internet pioneer….the man who co-invented the Ethernet. Following Metcalfe, the Strategic Investor Panel will provide unique and exciting insights into issues and challenges around innovation and collaboration. Finally we will hear from innovative and disruptive technology companies who are considered the “game-changers,” and how they are influencing the future of microelectronics.
The SIF event wraps up with an exclusive networking reception for qualified investors and partners for one-on-one meeting opportunities with SIF Innovation Showcase Exhibitors.
SM: SEMI is known as the association for the semiconductor equipment and materials industry. Where does the SIF fit into that?
RM: From a technology perspective, the tough technical and economic challenges of sustaining Moore’s Law drive continued research and development in the semiconductor industry. As chip structures go below the 10nm technology node, the industry will need to turn to disruptive solutions and need to draw on critically needed innovation and technology startups.
SM: Are there some industry trends you’ve found that you can share with us?
RM: Things are looking up. After recent declines, projected robust fab investment growth in 2014 and 2015 signals a strengthening recovery. The SEMI World Fab Forecast now predicts 24% growth (to about US$35.7 billion) for fab equipment spending (new, used, in-house) for Front End facilities in 2014 and 11% growth (to about US$39.5 billion) in 2015. In terms of equipment spending, 2015 is on track to surpass all-time record year 2011.
SM: What will be the main topics discussed during this conference?
RM: In addition to the compelling line up for the Silicon Innovation Forum, the Semiconductor Technology Symposium (STS) and the TechXPOTs are positioning outstanding sessions addressing MEMs, 450mm, scaling sub 10nm, 3D ICs, 3D printing, and other disruptive technologies. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also providing a great foundation for sessions touching on manufacturing improvements, MEMs and sensor packaging and how the IoT will impact the semiconductor industry in general.
I anticipate optimistic hallway discussion will lead to those eureka-collaboration moments in this environment when the market is trending upward. I’m really looking forward to positive buzz this year.
SM: Where can our readers find out more about SEMICON West?
RM: SEMICON West is the premier event bringing together the people, products and technologies advancing the future of microelectronics. Visit www.semiconwest.org to learn more.
SEMI is the global industry association serving the nano- and micro-electronic manufacturing supply chains. Our 1,900+ member companies are the engine of the future, enabling smarter, faster and more economical products that improve our lives. Since 1970, SEMI has been committed to helping members grow more profitably, create new markets and meet common industry challenges. SEMI maintains offices in Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Grenoble, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.semi.org.
About Ray Morgan
Ray Morgan, Director of Outreach & Membership, is responsible for industry outreach and SEMI member services for the America’s market which includes activities focused on the creation of new programs and communities that enhance industry and SEMI Member value. This includes, most recently, the formation of the Silicon Innovation Forum, a strategic partnering and investment forum for early / growth stage companies.
Prior to joining SEMI in 2009, Morgan spent 19 years in engineering, sales and marketing roles with leading semiconductor equipment and software companies including Applied Materials, Canon, and Synopsys.
Ray holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Masters in Business from Chaminade University, Hawaii.