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台灣半導體產業 將面臨激烈國際競爭 (2018-10-12 IEK產業情報網 )

The year 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of the invention of the integrated circuit (IC). The semiconductor industry in Taiwan has not only spearheaded the development of Taiwan’s high-tech industries, but also the creation of economic prosperity. Indeed, the semiconductor industry in Taiwan plays a pivotal role in the global ecosystem. Starting with the technology transfer by RCA from the U.S, the Taiwanese semiconductor industry has greatly surpassed RCA’s technological levels. There is currently a highly integrated supply chain in Taiwan, from upper stream to downstream. The specialized division of labor in Taiwan is unique in the world, known as a disruptive power to the traditional world of IDMs (integrated device manufacturers). The creation of foundry, IC testing and packaging companies in Taiwan collectively offers state-of-art technology to IC design houses around the world.



Demand Growth and M&A Activities
The development of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry mirrors the prosperity of the domestic economy. During the past three decades, the industry grew along with the booming of the PC and smartphone markets. Going forward, the industry will continue to serve the consumer electronics market, under the guidance of the government’s 5+2 Industrial Transformation Plan and by riding on the wave of Internet-of-Things innovations. The industry is expected to generate an annual revenue of NT$4 trillion by 2025.
There have been a slew of M&A activities in the global semiconductor industry over the past few years. Leading players have maintained their growth momentum and mapped out future strategies via acquisitions. The semiconductor companies in Taiwan were part of this trend. In 2015, Mediatek acquired four companies; Alpha Imaging Technology, Chingis Technology, ILITEK Corp, and Richtek Technology in order to enhance its Silicon Intellectual Property in image processing, touch panels and power management. The merged ASE Test and SPIL has been listed as a holding company and has great potential.
In general, M&A activities help to enhance the competitiveness of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. According to the research institute IC Insights, the M&A transactions in the global semiconductor industry in 2015-2016 reached $100bn. Whether this will continue depends on the level of integration among leading players in new applications such as AI and IoT.
Given the trend for smart connectivity, the semiconductor companies in Taiwan are likely to focus on the following domains: artificial intelligence, 5G, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and smart machinery, connected cars and autonomous driving, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), high-performance computing, software and networking services. The diversity of IoT applications means not everything requires the most expensive semiconductor processing. Some applications may be feasible using 90nm or micro/nano technology. The low cost threshold gives room for small IC design firms as long as they can offer innovative services and applications. This will drive the diversity of the fabless industry.



Both IDMs and Foundry Model Have Their Own Advantages
Thanks to the over 60% price increase of memory during the year, 2017 saw the global semiconductor market exceed $500bn, up approximately 20% from 2016. The IDMs as a group enjoyed the strongest growth, and accounted for over 60% of the global supply chain. In fact, the semiconductor industry in the US, South Korea, Japan and Europe is centered on IDMs. In Korea, IDMs contributed to over 95% of the industry’s output. Samsung, a leading IDM, reported a higher revenue than Intel for the first time and became the world’s largest semiconductor company.
In 2017, foundries accounted for 49% of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry’s output, IC design houses 25.1%, IC testing and packaging 19.4%, and memory 6.5%. The whole industry generated a total revenue of $81bn, the third largest in the world, next only to the US and Korea. The foundries in Taiwan had over 70% of the global market share (the largest in the world), generating a total revenue of $39.7bn in 2017.
The foundry model in Taiwan is distinctively different from the rest of the world. In fact, this is the advantage of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. IDMs work independently by launching their own branded products. Foundries work closely with IDMs, IC design companies, testing/packaging service providers, and electronics OEMs. The foundries in Taiwan help their customers to launch products by offering high yields and low costs. Both IDMs and foundries have their own advantages. The key to their success in the future depends on technology.



Taiwan Should Be Proactive in Response to the Rise of China
Given China’s status as the world’s largest producer of electronic products and systems, the Chinese semiconductor market contributed to an increasing percentage of the global demand, at around 30% in 2017. Driven by the government’s support for localization, the Chinese semiconductor industry has been growing rapidly. The fabless industries in China have increased their global market share to approximately 10%.
With leadership in technology and market share, the Taiwanese semiconductor industry remains competitive in the global landscape of co-competition. However, the Chinese semiconductor players have been catching up in terms of revenue given the government support and capital access. The localization of the Chinese semiconductor industry is expected to create a revenue of more than NT$3 trillion by 2020, and will gradually become a formidable competitor to Taiwan.
The cutting-edge semiconductor technology has moved to the 5nm level. In addition to continued miniaturization, the industry is also pursuing the integration of highly heterogeneous chips. The competition for new materials has started, such as superconductors for quantum computing and carbon nano materials, in an attempt to reach beyond the limitations of silicon today. With the arrival of the smart connectivity era, a plethora of applications will be focused on 5G, AI, IoT, intelligent cars and high speed computing. The semiconductor companies in Taiwan are advised to act fast to secure their future.
本文原刊載於IEK產業情報網,著作權為工研院產科國際所所有。
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