Panel V:

Roundtable—Key Issues and Steps Forward

Moderator:
Donald Siegel
University at Albany, SUNY

Ananth Dodabalapur, University of Texas at Austin
Stephen Forrest, University of Michigan
Robert Trew, National Science Foundation
James Turner, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities


Dr. Forrest began the discussion by asking about Dr. Gamota’s emphasis on inks. He observed that in the existing organic electronic infrastructure, products had been based on an evaporation, spray-on technique, rather than a liquid process. He asked why inks were chosen above other methods for making inexpensive and potentially high-performance devices.

Dr. Gamota acknowledged the point, noting that between iterations 1 and 2 of the roadmap, iNEMI had become “agnostic” in terms of solution processing or vacuum deposition. “We listened to what our constituencies said. For the second edition of the roadmap, we had a large contingent of people from Arizona State, the CAMM center, and others who brought in small-molecule and evaporative technology.” In the end, he said, they had to balance the two, concluding that systems requiring higher performance might go to evaporative systems. “But what we see now is that solution processing applications are very close to commercialization. And the commercialization path they’ve selected is based on products that don’t require the high performance achieved by materials processed using vacuum-deposition technologies. Historically, if you’re looking for higher performance, you rely on vacuum deposition, although today there are some solution-processed small-molecule materials that are demonstrating higher performance. Material selection is often driven by product cost and the performance of the final product.”

Ananth Dodabalapur said that he wanted to recommend two points to the symposium. One stemmed from the successful NSF-sponsored program called the National Nanofabrication Infrastructure Network. This program was



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102 FLEXIBLE ELECTRONICS Panel V: Roundtable—Key Issues and Steps Forward Moderator: Donald Siegel University at Albany, SUNY Ananth Dodabalapur, University of Texas at Austin Stephen Forrest, University of Michigan Robert Trew, National Science Foundation James Turner, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Dr. Forrest began the discussion by asking about Dr. Gamota’s emphasis on inks. He observed that in the existing organic electronic infrastructure, products had been based on an evaporation, spray-on technique, rather than a liquid process. He asked why inks were chosen above other methods for making inexpensive and potentially high-performance devices. Dr. Gamota acknowledged the point, noting that between iterations 1 and 2 of the roadmap, iNEMI had become “agnostic” in terms of solution processing or vacuum deposition. “We listened to what our constituencies said. For the second edition of the roadmap, we had a large contingent of people from Arizona State, the CAMM center, and others who brought in small-molecule and evaporative technology.” In the end, he said, they had to balance the two, concluding that systems requiring higher performance might go to evaporative systems. “But what we see now is that solution processing applications are very close to commercialization. And the commercialization path they’ve selected is based on products that don’t require the high performance achieved by materials processed using vacuum-deposition technologies. Historically, if you’re looking for higher performance, you rely on vacuum deposition, although today there are some solution-processed small-molecule materials that are demonstrating higher performance. Material selection is often driven by product cost and the performance of the final product.” Ananth Dodabalapur said that he wanted to recommend two points to the symposium. One stemmed from the successful NSF-sponsored program called the National Nanofabrication Infrastructure Network. This program was

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PROCEEDINGS 103 started in the days of the semiconductors and expanded with the advent of nanoelectronics, and was still “very functional.” He said that it was based on a network of host universities throughout the country. Each host university maintains a set of fabrication equipment, which was used by students and postdocs of that university, as well as by startup companies and larger companies that pay a certain fee. He said that one such facility, focusing on conventional microelectronics, was located in Texas. Many startups, including one or two that he had created, benefited from the infrastructure. “So it’s an equal-access system where I see a lot of value and a lot of creative intellectual property generated—not just by university researchers, but also by startup people.” He proposed the creation of a similar network of infrastructure facilities for flexible electronics, “some kind of national flexible electronics research infrastructure network to be used by university researchers and industry, which includes both startup companies as well as larger companies.” He noted that something similar already functioned well in Arizona, facilitating interactions. “I think that could be a powerful way of keeping our innovation engine running smoothly, and also helping to make the important transition to commercialization.” A questioner from NIST raised the topic of the supply chain, and strategies employed to cultivate and nurture the supply chain. He asked the views from the panel about whether a vibrant and sustainable supply chain within the United States might actually become a target for organizations that might want to move it offshore, purchase it, or otherwise place a controlling interest elsewhere. “If the government is asked to do things to help stimulate a U.S. supply chain, what strategies might you recommend for helping to retain and maintain that supply chain on-shore?” CREATING THE RIGHT DEMAND Mr. Edman of Applied Materials said that from his perspective, one of the critical areas to focus on was the markets companies are trying to serve. He mentioned the example of low-emissivity windows and coated-glass applications, and said that the demand for these products in the United States had been encouraged through incentives. California had mandated low-e window usage, which led to further regulation and energy-efficiency improvements, “which was the goal.” In that case, he said, the government played a role, and now the coated-glass industry was very strong in the United States. He said there were probably many examples where the government could play a similar role in encouraging demand and encouraging infrastructure to remain in the United States. He said that making sure that members of the consortium keep the jobs in the United States could be more problematic, and that the Fraunhofer model and others did not operate that way. “They understand

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104 FLEXIBLE ELECTRONICS that this is a free global market, and that the challenge is how to create the right infrastructure and demand.” Dr. Forrest added that, once a supply chain is created, the industry has to be very clear about what is to be supplied. This should begin with a few tested or proven technologies for which a demand already exists. “There has to be a demand pull,” he said. “Low cost can never be a driver of anything. The driver has to be a new application or an application that can’t be served by a different technology. Once you do that, you create capacity, and it’s the excess capacity which then grows the new industries off that supply chain.” He said this pattern had been demonstrated by the history of CMOS development and other technologies. “If you say that products in flexible electronics are just going to be cheaper than products in regular electronics, I would say that is wishful thinking.” The key, he said, is that the product does something differently that people need. “It may a long time to get to the right price points,” he said, “maybe not in my lifetime. The issue is really what you’re trying to make, and what that does that other technologies can’t.” A questioner asked Mr. Edman about the platform modes discussed earlier, and which of certain technologies that are well known now were likely to develop into flex. Mr. Edman referred to his company’s venture portfolio, and the atmospheric techniques for depositing films. The company was also aware of other areas that it viewed as potentially disruptive to its existing technology base, but areas that they should, as an equipment supplier, be interested in. From that perspective, he said, the company certainly could not stop the development of those technologies. Instead, Applied had to learn, as a company, how to exploit that development and how to embrace it. “That’s what we are trying to look forward to in our investment portfolio,” he said, “and also how we partner. We need to understand where these industries are going.” A participant noted that materials was “absolutely critical to moving forward” as well. Already the industry’s progress was closely tied to the equipment, he said, but in a number of markets it would be the driver, which raised the importance of understanding what materials are being developed. Michael Ciesinski, representing the FlexTech Alliance, asked if anyone had a reaction to Dr. Thompson’s strong call for a consortium. He noted a great deal of activity in the United States in some areas, including the Flexible Display Center and several universities, and asked “how the industry could reach critical mass.” PARTNERING AS A MATTER OF SURVIVAL Dr. Forrest agreed that Dr. Thompson had made a strong case for partnerships, partly because many of the technologies needed to bring this industry to maturity “are just too broad for a single company. If you don’t have materials scientists,” he said, “you have to go out and find them. If you don’t have people who know how to make equipment, you have to find them.” He said he saw the point of Dr. Thompson’s arguments that consortia were an important

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PROCEEDINGS 105 element. “Again,” he said, “it’s always going to be pulled by some application. It can’t be just random alliances. But once you know that, I think the industries and the universities are finding ways to work more productively together—not because they want to, but because it’s a matter of survival.” Jim Turner, of the National Association of Land-grant Universities, agreed with Dr. Thompson about the “fear factor” that drove the adoption of SEMATECH, noting that the Science Committee in the House of Representatives was actually competing with the Defense Committees in the House of Representatives for the role of authorizing the money to get this thing started. This indicated that SEMATECH was an important model, he said. “But I think that when we talk about SEMATECH today, what we really are talking about is SEMI-SEMATECH, or SEMATECH 2.0, when we were trying hard to get the next generation of DRAMs going. We fell on our face, but eventually we understood that the whole game was the supply chain and strength in the suppliers, and once we did understand, things went well.” He added that the drive does not absolutely have to be fear, but that it could be. “It has to be something really powerful that pulls a lot of people together. We may need to look at getting the White House engaged, as well as getting a SEMATECH-like consortium running.” Donald Siegel commented that, being an academic economist, he was not very practical, and said that the proceedings had been a revelation in allowing him to learn about the flexible electronics industry. He said he had learned several things. First of all, it was an industry that was difficult to define; “in fact, it’s not clear whether it’s flexible or organic. But regardless of how you define it, there appear to be several key facts about this industry.” First, he said, there were very broad and diverse applications of the technology. This was not surprising to an economist, he continued, because electronics is thought of as a general-purpose technology. It has broad applications across sectors and can in fact transform the production process in many of those sectors. Second, there may be an important quality of sustainability to this industry, such as green jobs and green technology, which the foreign speakers in particular discussed. Third, global competition in this industry is very strong, and the United States is behind the curve. “In fact,” he said, “our charge was to study research consortia around the globe, and a combination of government investment and university-industry partnerships appear to be drivers of success abroad. But I think the critical limiting fact in this sector is that there’s very little data. In order to quantify the potential economic impact of this industry in terms of job creation, we have to do what Dr. Shenoy of DARPA said: You have to make the business case for this industry. Until we do that, we’re not going to see more investment, either public or private.” Dr. Thompson closed the discussion with a response about using a business plan. “I started working on photovoltaics in 1982 because of the global

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106 FLEXIBLE ELECTRONICS oil crisis,” he said. “There was a wonderful case to be made. But then, the price of oil went back down, and the business plan disappeared. It’s very difficult to know what’s about to happen. We must say to the Congress, stop talking only about job creation, and do the investments where don’t want to lose out completely—in this area of the future.”