"We need to strengthen our strengths, " Luc Van den hove, CEO of Imec, told the Imec Technology Forum 2014 in Brussels , "on equipment development, higher up the value chain in systems and in the IP companies like ARM. The supply chain is important."
"The equipment companies can't do this in an isolated way," added Van den hove, "we need to have a central hub - an independent hub - where suppliers can combine their strengths and we can provide such a platform."
The result of this thinking is what Imec calls a 'Supplier Hub'. "ASML started it, Lam Research joined today," said Van den hove.
Imec's new cleanroom will be ready at the end of next year to assist in the effort.
The R&D done by equipment companies is costing more and more, while the customers for fab tools get less and less (70% of tool spend by five companies) and the equipment companies consolidate (like the Applied-Tokyo Electron merger when the No.1 and No.2 companies merged).
“Fewer companies need to address more challenges,” said Van den hove.
As the R&D burden grows, Imec is seeking to reduce the risk of choosing wrong options. "Imec helps reduce risk by investigating all the options and talking to all the players in the ecosystem," said Van den hove.
Imec, of course, has been collaborating with equipment companies for years. The Suppliers Hub envisages closer relationships than before with projects starting at an earlier stage of development.