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Globalization of Materials R&D: Time for a National Strategy
pidity of this change was not anticipated in the 2000 study, but there was an awareness that such changes were beginning.
In the 2000 report it was stated that the industrial strength of the U.S. materials science and engineering research community could not be compared meaningfully with that of a single country. The collaboration of university and industry researchers was noted as an important aspect of the U.S. innovation system. In particular, the benefit of individuals moving between the academic and industrial worlds was noted. It was further stated that the elimination of central research laboratories and of longer term, innovative research by many high-tech companies was making the technology transfer from universities more difficult. Today the U.S. electronics material industry’s R&D is being globalized to support a worldwide industrial base. It remains too early to say if the weakening of the U.S. industrial R&D base will weaken U.S. innovation in the field of electronic materials or if there are alternative pathways for the transfer of innovative technology, such as industrial research consortia.
The 2000 report noted that the “valley of death” between innovation and application was becoming critical as development cycles became shorter. It further noted that proactively addressing this weakness was crucial to continued economic competitiveness in areas that depend on new materials. In the United States, industrial consortia such as Sematech and the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) have been formed to define research needs and to pull research results across that valley. However, as the electronic industry globalizes we often see American innovation being implemented into processes and manufacturing in other regions of the world, particularly Asia.
Today the United States is leading in R&D of materials and processes for semiconductor devices, particularly for evolving complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. An example would be strained silicon technology. However, Japan and Korea are leading in the R&D of materials for displays and optical memories. In the area of organic printed wiring board materials, the R&D leadership is moving from the United States and Europe to Asia. A similar pattern is starting in materials for electronics packaging.
Semiconductor manufacturing is dominated by the United States, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Disk drive manufacturing is dominated by Singapore and Japan. Organic printed circuit board manufacturing for consumer products is moving to China from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Consumer electronics assembly has moved to China to be near the growing market and to take advantage of low-cost labor. In almost all cases, the global firms who provide materials are moving their development, manufacturing, and customer support functions close to the new manufacturing base.
Recently there has been rejuvenation in U.S. materials research to address the