Humanity has survived almost unimaginable challenges over the past 5,000 years of documented human history. From war, famine and natural disasters to the first global pandemic in the last 100 years, more often than not, people have relied on one another to survive and thrive again. As the industry association representing the global microelectronics industry, SEMI has similarly made collaboration and community integral to the fabric of its organization. From helping members to succeed through the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitating member-driven industry standards around environmental health and safety, materials, and manufacturing capabilities, this approach shows members that standing together is better than standing alone.
On the eve of the 50th annual SEMICON West (July 20-23, 2020) — the first virtual edition in SEMI’s history — I spoke with SEMI’s vice president of technology communities, Michael Ciesinski, about the role of SEMI in tackling big challenges through an active member community intent on solving problems through collaboration.
SEMI: How long have you worked with SEMI and in what capacity?
Ciesinski: In January 2016, I started my second tour at SEMI when FlexTech, the industry consortium I’d been leading, became SEMI’s first strategic partner. Nearly two years into that role, SEMI President & CEO Ajit Manocha asked me to form Technology Communities to engage members with common interests. After FlexTech, we brought on the Fab Owners Alliance, then MEMS & Sensors Industry Group (MSIG), and later the Electronic System Design Alliance (ESD Alliance).
SEMI now has more than 20 communities in all, including Smart MedTech, Smart Data & AI, Smart Manufacturing, Electronic Materials, and Integrated Packaging, Assembly and Test.
SEMI: What is your role with Technology Communities — and how do members stand to benefit?
Ciesinski: The leadership of Technology Communities ensures that SEMI’s benefits and services align to our members’ interests so we can provide member benefits that matter most. This spans forming communities where people hold common interests (e.g., advanced packaging) to facilitating standards that will promote intelligence in manufacturing (e.g., data standards for AI and machine learning) as well as providing R&D funding.
I’m especially proud that over the past three years, SEMI has brought more than $40 million in R&D funding to our members, with most grants in the $500,000-$1 million range. We’ve been especially successful in securing funding in flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) through U.S. Army Research Laboratories (ARL), a model we first developed through FlexTech.
Two recent recipients of FHE funding, GE Research and ITN Energy Systems, show how the grants are spawning partnership opportunities among commercial enterprises, R&D organizations and universities. In developing lightweight, non-invasive wearables, including a human-performance sweat-monitoring patch that remotely analyzes sweat to detect hydration levels and other vital signs, GE Research is using key components such as sensors and lightweight batteries in its designs.
ITN Energy Systems designed a flexible all-solid-state lithium battery that’s printed on light, flexible substrates to power small and incredibly thin applications.
Universities are also benefiting by plugging into the SEMI ecosystem. In fact, 40-50 percent of funded projects are seeding commercialization by universities. This is another validation that SEMI’s collaborative, community approach to microelectronics is working.
SEMI: Position, Timing and Navigation (PNT) is another hot area where SEMI has secured ARL funding. What makes this funding different and why is it important?
Ciesinski: The PNT grant makes ARL funding available to the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group (MSIG) members through SEMI for the first time. If you’ve ever lost GPS signal while coming out of a tunnel, you know how frustrating that is. For us, that’s an inconvenience, but for a healthcare worker in a remote location who’s waiting for a delivery of medication by drone, it could be life-critical. While that’s just one example of why we need PNT to operate when GPS isn’t available, I can imagine dozens of other important dual-use cases, including autonomous driving.
SEMI: How else do Technology Communities benefit under SEMI?
Ciesinski: Technology Communities need access to diverse resources to spur continuous innovation. Electronic Materials Group participants, for example, need to stay informed on regulations coming out of Asia, the U.S. and Europe that may affect their businesses. Where else other than SEMI can like-minded stakeholders congregate with people up and down the supply chain to determine whether industry-wide action is needed on regulation?
SEMI: What is the importance of SEMI’s global footprint?
Ciesinski: I’ve worked with many associations and managed major industry consortia. The clear advantage of SEMI is our global footprint. And that’s vital because microelectronics is a global industry involving a multitude of stakeholders that play essential roles in the supply chain.
Let’s say you want to discuss EU regulations on hazardous chemicals. Rather than decipher these complexities alone, you can pick up the phone to speak with someone on SEMI’s European team to learn what’s critical.
What if you’d like more information on the 20-plus new fabs that are going up in China? You can explore that question with our SEMI China or SEMI Industry Research and Statistics teams.
SEMI: How has SEMI evolved over the years?
Ciesinski: SEMI has a long history of providing what the industry cares about. We started in trade shows and pivoted to industry standards. We began with small silicon wafers and wafer carriers, and now within the span of 50 years we’re working on data-format standards that will support the application of AI and machine learning (ML) in the semiconductor industry.
While highly varied today, data-format standards will help component manufacturers refine processes to create more efficient solutions. This ARL-funded program, which pairs SEMI members with the grant recipient, Cornell University, may offer dramatic gains in the productivity of semiconductor manufacturing.
SEMI: How does SEMI’s approach to COVID-19 reflect core values of collaboration and community?
Ciesinski: Together with Ajit Manocha, CMO Terry Tsao and other team members at SEMI, we pulled together a task force to help SEMI members navigate the pandemic.
We tapped two existing groups, Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Information Technology Leadership (ITL) from the start, documenting their strategic and tactical approaches to help all members through the COVID-19 resource section of our website. The EHS section provides tips on facilities and meetings, employee policies, business travel and communications, while the ITL section lists insights on computing hardware for staff, licensing, networks, security and employee policies.
Our EHS leadership team, which includes Entegris, Axcelis, Versum, and Intel, immediately started sharing best practices for sanitizing facilities. As a result of team meetings, SEMI EHS shared best practices on keeping the workforce remote and guidelines for returning people to work safely. From securing PPE and safeguarding employees and visitors by performing thermal scanning to outlining communications around potential employee exposures, EHS has provided meaningful resources for the benefit of all members.
SEMI also took immediate steps in the area of advocacy. Our advocacy team in Washington, D.C., together with regional SEMI presidents around the world, have ensured that semiconductor facilities were and still are considered essential businesses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. That’s because microelectronics are foundational to fighting the pandemic.
Microfluidics are critical to the Reverse Transcription (RT) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests most commonly used for COVID-19. Sensors are embedded in the pulse oximeters that allow patients and healthcare professionals to monitor a vital rubric: oxygen saturation level. If oxygen saturation level drops into the low 90 percentiles or below, it may be time to go to the hospital for treatment.
Microcontroller units are essential components in a wide range of hospital equipment, including the ventilators that may make the difference between life and death in the most seriously ill patients.
SEMI: How can the ingenuity realized through microelectronics continue to help us tackle other big problems?
Ciesinski: We have MEMS and sensors to thank for distributed intelligence, giving us the ability to put sensors anywhere, locally based in the field or in the packaging house.
Food production is a prime example. Leveraging miniaturized wirelessly connected sensors, we can trace food through the entire production lifecycle, from the seed in the ground to the food in the warehouse and, ultimately, to the product that lands on the table.
From larger enterprise such as IBM Food Trust to small startups, we’re using MEMS and sensors to improve crop yields so we can feed a human population that’s growing each year.
There’s a sustainability piece as well. We’re using MEMS and sensors to reduce the amount of fertilizer or other nutrients or chemicals in the soil. That’s good for the environment and for the agricultural workers who labor in the fields.
MEMS and sensors can also condense the time it takes to perform a specific task, conserving human resources.
SEMI: Where do you think SEMI will go in the next decade?
Ciesinski: Ten years from now, I believe we will still have our global footprint in place. I expect it will expand, particularly in Asia.
We may also expand into new areas such as Latin America and Central America, which would provide at least two major benefits: People working in microelectronics would, I hope, have access to better quality of life. And diversifying the supply chain would allow nations and regions to have more control over the products they need, from PPE to medications, which may help us to better manage through the next pandemic.
I am also hopeful that SEMI will be on the leading edge of helping our members communicate in much different fashion from what we have today. We’re already expanding beyond the paradigm of in-person meetings for standards meetings and conferences. As we move forward, I think we’ll see a hybrid solution to doing business, combining in-person meetings with virtual conferences and digital content that’s available 24/7.
Whatever changes we see in SEMI, I’m confident that we will continue to see a global footprint in an industry association that prioritizes connections among members.
Engage in the SEMI experience at upcoming SEMICON West
Register today to hear from keynote speakers such as environmental advocate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, futurist and author Steve Brown, and IBM Research senior vice president and director Dr. John E. Kelly III, and Lea Gabrielle, special envoy of the Global Engagement Center for the U.S. State Department, at SEMICON West , July 20-23, 2020. Content will be live streamed and available on-demand.
Michael Ciesinski is vice president of Technology Communities for SEMI, the global microelectronics industry association, appointed in August 2018. At SEMI, he directs activity for more than 20 industry groups, oversees the association’s R&D funding program, and develops new technology initiatives to serve SEMI’s 2,400 members. Prior to re-joining SEMI, Ciesinski was president/CEO of FlexTech Alliance, an industry consortium focused on new methods of creating electronics. From 1995-2008, Ciesinski served in a similar role at the U.S. Display Consortium (USDC), a private/public partnership chartered with building the infrastructure for electronic display and flexible electronics manufacturing. Both FlexTech and USDC annually sponsor multimillion dollar technology development programs and provide industry technical, financial and market services.
Ciesinski is a graduate of the University of Albany, NY, and a former member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee at California Polytechnic State University.
Maria Vetrano is a PR consultant at SEMI.