May 04, 2006 13:00 ET

SEMATECH Collaborative Model Could Sharpen Other Industries, Strategist Says

AUSTIN, TX -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 4, 2006 -- After working nearly 20 years with diverse and highly competitive microchip companies, SEMATECH has fine-tuned a collaborative model that could be applied successfully to other industries, SEMATECH strategist Randy Goodall told an international conference here.

Speaking Tuesday to the World Congress on Information Technology, Goodall added that the SEMATECH Collaboration Maturity Model has stood up against soaring R&D costs, rampant consolidations and severe downturns to deliver to its member companies 540 percent annual return on investment, and $2 billion in value in the past five years alone.

In the process, he said, the SEMATECH Model also has significantly reduced the microchip industry's research expenses while boosting the progress of its best technologies.

"The semiconductor industry is a roaring cataract of technical innovation, and there is no way to manage it without a collaborative principle," said Goodall, director of SEMATECH's External Programs Division. "As a result, we have developed probably the best collaborative model in the world."

For example, Goodall said cities in a given area might use the SEMATECH Model to work together to create regional economic development policies, develop area infrastructure such as airports, highways, and power grids, and reach consensus on environmental management plans. Universities might collaborate to develop writing joint grant proposals, identify a regional industrial lab, or offer training in commercializing academic research.

"The model really does apply very broadly," Goodall said. "The key is to identify the line between what is collaborative, and what has to remain competitive."

Once competitors in an industry overcome their natural reluctance to avoid cooperating, pre-competitive collaboration goes through three basic stages of evolution that must be recognized and negotiated, Goodall noted. These include:

--  Stage 1:  Research Collaboration, in which participants agree to joint
    fact-finding for future products. "This is where many collaborations
    stop -- but it's at least progress," Goodall said.
--  Stage 2: Development Collaboration, where partners start to extend
    research into commonly sought applications. "This occurs as people come
    to realize that they're all doing pretty much the same thing behind
    closed doors," Goodall added.
--  Stage 3: Productivity Collaboration, when associates extend their
    shared learning to enhance current production, and employ feed-forward
    to influence the direction of research and development efforts. "Here
    the collaboration model is at its most mature and potentially rewarding
But collaboration is not without challenges, Goodall said, often driven by the fact that "each company is a little different," and that collaborations may include industry leaders, followers, and those in the middle. Getting this population to agree on where to draw the pre-competitive boundary is the first challenge to managing a consortium, Goodall said.

The second challenge is establishing how far the group's research should precede manufacturing insertion (10 years or 18-24 months out is a common debate), and a third challenge is deciding how the cooperative itself should engage the industry's suppliers and customers. Finally, a collaboration must be flexible enough to allow subsets of companies to pursue projects that might not interest the entire consortium.

"Given these pressures, it can be a challenge to hold the whole consortium together," Goodall said. "But judging by nearly 20 years of execution, SEMATECH proves that it's entirely possible."

SEMATECH is the world's catalyst for accelerating the commercialization of technology innovations into manufacturing solutions. By setting global direction, creating opportunities for flexible collaboration, and conducting strategic R&D, SEMATECH delivers significant leverage to our semiconductor and emerging technology partners. In short, we are accelerating the next technology revolution. For more information, please visit our website at SEMATECH, the SEMATECH logo, AMRC, Advanced Materials Research Center, ATDF, the ATDF logo, Advanced Technology Development Facility, ISMI and International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative are servicemarks of SEMATECH, Inc.

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