mature and relatively standardized products, China limits its R&D and semiconductor capability developments. Similarly, it is questionable whether China can sustain its increasing share of total worldwide wafer production as its leading foundries (e.g., SMIC, Shougang NEC Electronics, and HeJian Technology) have experienced dramatic revenue declines in 2010. While it continues to lead in the number of new wafer fabrications, these plants use older technology.
This chapter provides two measures for assessing advanced research efforts related to the key advanced computing technologies described in Chapter 1, as well as for assessing global competitiveness in these technologies. These two measures include (1) descriptions of the global landscape of the commercialization of semiconductor, computing hardware, and software technologies; and (2) bilateral trade data analysis of electronics and ICT ATP products with a focus on technologies specifically relevant to the computing challenges outlined in Chapter 1.
Preliminary observations from a pilot study of a third possible measure, conference publication data, indicate that the United States has maintained its position as a strong contributor of research papers at the technical conferences sampled by the committee over the last 15 years, with particular strengths in the area of architecture research. Early results from the pilot study also demonstrate the value of a more focused examination of a nation’s technology-specific paper contributions (say, compared to a bulk analysis across all advanced computing sectors). The longitudinal data analyses also provide a starting point for identifying trends in national and regional participation in specific technology areas. While these early data suggest a strong U.S. position, a more thorough investigation is necessary.23
The advanced technology product trade data analyses indicate that China is increasingly becoming a major market for advanced electronics products. China also is exhibiting increased competitiveness as both a user and supplier of ICT products; its domestic semiconductor industry also continues to grow. In addition, Taiwanese manufacturing and assembly are increasingly being transferred to China. While the United States has maintained—and is likely to continue in the near term—its leading position as a supplier of leading-edge semiconductor designs, it has a more minor position in semiconductor manufacturing.
Though conference data from the pilot study suggest that China currently lags behind the United States in leading research capabilities (though it is growing, especially in the applications research areas), it is important to consider other indicators of China’s research capabilities—for example, the technology transfer through U.S. education of Chinese foreign nationals. By sending its best students to top U.S. research universities, China can capitalize on the “value added” by American education and bootstrap its manufacturing and design prowess without these capabilities showing up in publication data.
China is already a major consumer of ICT products, which is increasingly shaping product expectations and standards; over time, China’s position in the global semiconductor value chain will continue to improve. Thus, the United States cannot be complacent and needs to be prepared for this long-term shift in competitiveness.
23For example, as discussed in Appendix F, future iterations of this analysis would ideally take into consideration all papers relevant to the computing performance challenges outlined in Chapter 1, whether published at conferences or in traditional journals, weighted by citations and impact factors, as well as expert judgment.