Semiconductors impact continues to grow - from the early years of PCs, faxes and pagers in the late 70ies all the way to smart agri and logisitics 4.0 today.

Semiconductors have gone through an incredible growth over the last four decennia. The veterans will still remember Mead & Conway and some might still have designed bipolar ECL circuits. Today the bulk of the activities is in CMOS and the eco-system is not just extensive but in fact overwhelming and at the same time highly efficient. The drive to integrate ever more functionality on the same die continues to consolidate the strategic position of the industry. As semiconductors have become so pervasive in a multitude of products and markets, its overall cyclical nature has somewhat subdued: from automotive to healthcare, from IoT to PCs, from smartphones to game computers, from robotics to bitcoin delving. These markets share some level of commonality such as IP (e.g. memory compilers, processor cores, standard cell libraries, etc.) but also have their own specific requirements (e.g. security, operations range, memory volatility, sensors, …).

Each market having its own dynamics makes for a more blurred cycle. In fact, markets being served by different types of circuits may also involve different types of manufacturing plants, bringing back part of the cyclical behavior. Semiconductor manufacturing is a global activity. The cost of setting up and running a state-of-the-art facility has, over the years, increased to a level above the US$10B, making it a very exclusive activity. Bringing a facility online is a huge investment and takes a long time in terms of planning, constructing and activating. This was and is one of the main reasons for its cyclical nature (“pigs cycle”).

Research and development in semiconductors is carried out by a large number of corporations, universities as well as startups.