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A*STAR IME launches four joint labs to help semiconductor industry

The four joint laboratories represent a commitment of S$200 million from the private and public sectors.

SINGAPORE: A Singapore research institution on Wednesday (July 23) launched four laboratories as the Government takes further steps to position the city-state as a world-class innovation hub for the semiconductor industry.

The four Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR) Institute of Microelectronics' (IME) Advanced Semiconductor Joint Labs will leverage IME's research capabilities in advanced lithography, metrology, assembly, and wafer level packaging, which are key semiconductor technology processes.

The industry partners involved in this international collaboration are: Applied Materials, Dai Nippon Printing, DISCO, KLA-Tencor, Mentor Graphics, Nikon, Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, PINK, Tokyo Electron and Tokyo Ohka Kogyo.

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Second Minister of Trade and Industry S Iswaran said the semiconductor industry has played an important role in Singapore's economic growth since the first investments more than 40 years ago.

Industry employment has more than doubled over the past two decades, from about 15,000 in 1993 to 41,000 in 2013, while more than half of the world's semiconductor companies have research and development and manufacturing activities in Singapore today, he said.

"With a total R&D commitment of S$200 million over the next three to five years, the launch today of the four IME Joint Labs bears testament to A*STAR's continued strong partnership with the semiconductor industry," he added.

The minister also said projects such as the Advanced Semiconductor Joint Labs will ensure that Singapore is well-positioned to grow the semiconductor industry.

"These capabilities will prepare our companies for emerging global trends in the semiconductor industry towards 3D chip-packaging and fine patterning of 20 nanometres and below. They will also help to address industry challenges of reducing chip manufacturing cost while enhancing performance," said Mr Iswaran.

MORE BRAINS NEEDED

To grow Singapore's semiconductor industry, more brains are needed to fill high-value positions and deal with expensive machines.

"These are very complex equipment requiring multi-disciplinary stuff - physics, chemistry, software engineering. And I think these jobs are very very interesting for Singaporeans to aspire to," said Russel Tham, corporate vice president of Applied Materials.

There is no estimate yet of the total number of jobs that will be created as a result of this innovation drive, but semiconductor process control solutions provider KLA-Tencor will be bringing the R&D activities for two of its product lines to Singapore, with plans to hire 20 additional R&D engineers by the end of this year.

Tokyo Electron, another partner, will expand its presence in Singapore from the current sales and support functions to include R&D.

Overall, employment in the semiconductor industry has more than doubled over the past 20 years from about 15,000 in 1993 to 41,000 in 2013.

Over half of the world's semiconductor companies have research and manufacturing activities in Singapore.

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