Published on December 21st, 2007

“Why ‘Global’?”

Stephen BaileyIn 1994 a group of visionaries started the Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA). The idea was that this united group of fabless leaders could better articulate the opportunity for this burgeoning community. The group was unique in its sole dedication to the interests and success of the fabless community.

When the FSA was started in 1994 the fabless industry was a $3.2 billion niche market--highly criticized by Wall Street and industry veterans. In 2007, the fabless industry is expected to generate over $50 billion in revenues. And by all significant financial indices, fabless has been the superior model. Due to the fabless model’s success it has been widely and whole-heartedly embraced.

That success has presented a dilemma for the FSA as nearly every semiconductor company has adopted this model--totally, partially or partially going totally, or totally and not saying so and thus fabless is no longer a differentiating term, but rather the standard, now what?

The leadership of FSA has debated “what’s nextâ€? and has prepared for the next phase.

This is the best group to address the serious and complex challenges associated with a global, modern and mature semiconductor industry. It is also the only global organization that represents the entire semiconductor supply chain.

FSA started as an association, or group of similar companies promoting their common interests. Eventually foundries and other suppliers were added to the Board. The group is now an alliance of diverse companies voluntarily coming together to achieve a broader mission.

If challenges are not addressed and ultimately solved, it will threaten the growth, profitability or both for this industry. Therefore, the FSA has transitioned and re-branded itself as the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA).

The transition and name change better reflects the organization’s current role; the victory of the original mission to proliferate the adoption of the fabless business model; and the change in vernacular, whereby the term fabless and IDM lose their meaning by virtue of mass adoption of outsourcing.

GSA’s mission is to accelerate the growth and increase the return on invested capital of the global semiconductor industry by fostering a more effective fabless ecosystem through collaboration, integration and innovation.

In an effort to achieve this mission, GSA will provide a platform for meaningful global collaboration; encourage and support entrepreneurship; provide members with comprehensive and unique market intelligence; identify and articulate market opportunities; and address the challenges and enable industry-wide solutions within the supply chain, including intellectual property (IP), electronic design automation (EDA)/design, wafer manufacturing, packaging and test.

The organization’s leadership has been deliberative about this transition and continues to be mindful of the needs of smaller companies.

Although the challenges for emerging companies seem daunting, there is an underlying optimism in the industry about the number of viable start-ups on the horizon—companies like Akros, Alereon, Apexone, Bay Microsystems, Chipnuts Cortina, HiSilicon, Inphi, Newport Media, Phoenix Microelectronics Primarion, Richwave, SiBeam, Telegent, Tilera, ViXs, WiQuest, Newport Media, Tilera, SiBeam, and dozens of others.

To ensure that the GSA serves the needs of these companies, an Emerging Company CEO Council has been established, and a position has been dedicated on the Board for an emerging company. The number of emerging companies participating on regional Councils has increased and GSA will continue to work closely with its VC Advisory Council remaining focused on promoting entrepreneurship.

GSA will also expand its product, tool and service offering to meet the challenges of the industry as it continues its work on the IPecosystem Tool Suite – the Hard IP Risk Assessment Tool released in 2007 and the Licensing Risk Assessment Tool released into Beta in December 2007. GSA is focused on design productivity with its surveys on benchmarking and lifecycle analysis with consumer electronics OEMs. Packaging continues to be a focus, building on the System-in-Package market analysis. Test is emerging to represent an important aspect of design accuracy and time-to-market capabilities. And, as always, GSA will remain focused on foundry manufacturing issues, embarking on research into Silicon on Insulator research in 2008 and manufacturability of IP.

Jodi Shelton is one of the founders of GSA, serving as executive director since its inception in July 1994 as the FSA. Jodi oversees the daily operations of GSA, ensuring that the Association stays focused on its defined vision and goals.

Thinking global for your IP? Send your itinerary to the editor at jkobylecky@extensionmedia.com and the Editorial Director at jblyler@extensionmedia.com.

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