As a top semiconductor manufacturing hub, Korea is poised to lead the world in fab construction spending in 2019 and 2020, accounting for 27 percent of the total market. Little wonder that Korea’s prowess in the semiconductor industry has meant steady membership growth for SEMI Korea, with HD Cho, president of SEMI Korea, putting the average annual jump at about 7 percent.
But HD Cho’s focus as he returned to COEX in Seoul, home to SEMICON Korea, in late August was not on membership growth over the years but the future. Cho hosted about 400 SEMI members gathered at SEMI Korea Members Day for insights into the state of the world economy, semiconductor industry outlooks, and perspectives on how South Korean and European microelectronics companies can form stronger ties.
Setting the stage with look at macroeconomics, Byung-yeon Kim, team manager of NH Investment and Securities, predicted that, as the global economy continues to falter, 25 of the 58 major countries this year will cut interest rates in a bid to boost prospects for growth. Historically, the global composite leading indicator (CLI), a bellwether for turning points in the economy, has rebounded after 20 months of decline, he said. While the CLI downtrend is now past the 20-month mark, Kim struck a bullish note, predicting that the global economy will bounce back before long.
Soo-kyoum Kim, vice president at IDC, referring to the semiconductor industry’s own soft patch, said that total revenue is expected to drop from $475 billion in 2018 to $440 billion this year but should rebound to a new high of $500 billion in 2023. The memory market will be especially hard-hit, dropping more than 29 percent in 2019 and another 14 percent next year before bottoming and then staging a recovery in the second half of 2020. The strength of the rebound will hinge on server market demand, he added.
Next year will also see rebounds in semiconductor equipment and materials revenue, with growth of 12 percent and 3 percent, respectively, said Clark Tseng, director of Industry Research and Statistics at SEMI. The increases will follow a 2019 equipment market drop of 18 percent to $53 billion from the previous year while materials this year is expected to remain flat at $52 billion. The semiconductor industry will expand at a modest 2.4 percent this year, jumping to 7.6 percent in 2020, Tseng reported, citing the average growth rate based on data from Gartner, WSTC, IC Insights, VLSI Research and other industry analyst firms. Despite current weak market demand and the ongoing trade war, the long-term outlook for the semiconductor industry remains upbeat, he added.
In Europe, semiconductor industry growth continues on the strength of the region’s high strategic importance in the global electronics supply chain, said Laith Altimime, president of SEMI Europe. Fab construction spending in Europe continued to grow in 2018, reaching $300 million, and is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2019 and $1.6 billion in 2020, with equipment, parts and components driving the surges.
To help build stronger ties between European and Korean chip industries, Altimime introduced the SEMI Korea members to SEMI Europe business platforms including SEMICON Europe, the 3D & System Summit, ISS Europe, and the MEMS & Imaging Sensor Summit. He also encouraged the formation of more business partnerships between companies in the two regions by familiarizing SEMI Korea members with European players in areas such as foundry, MEMS, sensors and wafer manufacturing.
And it will be MEMS and sensors that help drive the 4th Industrial Revolution, said Sung-hyuk Kim, a team leader at LG Electronics' Sensor Solution Research Institute. In his presentation Architecting Sensor Solutions for the Next Revolution, he noted that sensors are finding their way into devices where they have never been used before. In household refrigerators, gas sensors help deodorize the inside while distance sensors detect the approach of people. Air conditioners equipped with a camera sensor can pinpoint the location of humans and steer the airflow in their direction.
Of course, all these smarts will come in form of data-devouring artificial intelligence (AI), and that data will be generated in massive amounts by MEMS and sensors – placing them at the epicenter of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Jaegwan Shim is a marketing specialist at SEMI Korea.