David Anderson, president of NY CREATES, an innovation hub headquartered at the Albany NanoTech Complex, joins Policy Outsider to take us into the workings of the semiconductor industry and offer insight into how New York State’s tightly woven research and economic development tapestry supports and drives advanced technologies and manufacturing.
Bob Megna, president, Rockefeller Institute of Government
Dave Anderson, president, NY CREATES
Transcript was generated using AI software and may contain errors.
Alexander Morse 00:08
Welcome to Policy Outsider presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. I’m Alex Morse. On our last episode, we spoke with Kevin Younis, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Empire State Development Corporation on the makings of Micron’s $100 billion investment in upstate New York for a semiconductor chip fabrication facility. If you haven’t listened to that one, I encourage you to do so. Kevin covered the negotiations behind the Micron deal and the role of policy and laying the groundwork to secure Micron’s investment in New York State. On today’s episode, we’re taking a deeper dive into the semiconductor industry, an industry that is expected to grow to over $1 trillion within the next 10 years. And we’ll be looking at how New York’s research and development ecosystem supports the growth of the semiconductor and advanced manufacturing industries. Rockefeller Institute President Bob Megna returns as host to interview Dave Anderson, President of NY CREATES, a world leading research and development, innovation hub, and commercialization facilitator in advanced technologies and manufacturing. Bob and Dave cover the semiconductor industry at large, the science behind the chip making process, and the importance of academic partnerships with SUNY’s colleges and universities to develop the workforce of tomorrow. Coming up next.
Robert Megna 01:53
Hi, this is Bob Megna, president of Rockefeller Institute of Government, and we’re lucky to have with us today Dave Anderson. Dave, what your title there at NY CREATES.
Dave Anderson 02:08
President of NY CREATES, yes.
Robert Megna 02:11
Why don’t you tell us? We’re gonna want you to explain to us what NY CREATES is, but before that, why don’t you talk a little about yourself and your background and how you ended up here with us?
Dave Anderson 02:23
Sure. I have been in the industry, my entire career, the semiconductor industry. With the original Fairchild Semiconductor and National Semiconductor, I was part of the startup team of the semi-tech consortium back in the late 80s, and spent some time there, and then actually acquired the fab that was the original semi-tech fab and formed a couple of companies there ATDF, which is the advanced technology development facility. And later, Novati Technologies, which was kind of a boutique research and development foundry and low volume, manufacturing facilities for very niche devices, like medical technologies, defense related and image sensing and other types of products. Most recently, prior to coming to NY CREATES, I was president of SEMI Americas and semis worldwide industry association for the semiconductor industry.
Robert Megna 03:20
And I think maybe, if you could talk a little bit about it, because we were actually just talking to some folks from the economic, state economic development authority, and they were talking about the wonderful Micron deal in New York, which I’ll ask you about. But can you explain the nature of the semiconductor industry in that this is a global industry, and, you know, yeah, let’s talk a little about that.
Dave Anderson 03:49
Sure. The semiconductor industry is truly a global industry. We have research and development, device design and manufacturing, in nearly every major region of the world. And it’s, you know, this year, somewhere in the $550 to $600 billion as an industry. Expectation by 2030 or 2032, it will be a trillion-dollar industry. So, it really does have a large impact and it’s growing. And semiconductors are literally and everything we use today, from our toasters to our washers to our cars, and of course, our cell phones. And so, it’s really the fabric of all the products that we use.
Robert Megna 04:31
And that trillion dollars you’re talking about is just the chips. If we talked about like the software throw offs and all of that it’s even more enormous.
Dave Anderson 04:42
Absolutely. It’s just the chips themselves at a trillion dollars. Yeah.
Robert Megna 04:46
Fascinating. So, NY CREATES. Can you talk a little bit about the organization and what its function is and how you see it kind of progressing in the near future?
Dave Anderson 04:59
Sure. NY CREATES is really an acronym. It’s the New York Center for Research, Economic Advancement, Technology, Engineering and Sciences. And all of those words together kind of define what our mission is. I mean, we support economic development, growth of companies in the state of New York across the state of New York, and of course, the development of new technologies, engineering and science. So here in Albany, Albany Nanotech Complex, is our largest facility that we own and operate. And it has some of the most advanced semiconductor technologies in the world, at our site here, but we have several sites across the state that we support technology industries, that are nascent and growing, including our assembly and test and packaging facility, which is in Rochester.
Robert Megna 05:54
How would you describe what goes on at the Albany facility?
Dave Anderson 05:59
Albany facility is a research and development facility for chip technologies. So, we have the most recent state of the art equipment that is used for building chips. And we operate at 300 millimeter, which is a diameter of the silicon wafer the chips are made on, which is what is used in leading edge manufacturing today. And so we do research and development on manufacturing grade equipment. And the objective there is to ensure that what gets developed in our line can easily transport into a manufacturing operation and be manufacturable.
Robert Megna 06:41
So basically, it could go from work that gets done at the Albany facility, then into manufacturing at a later stage.
Dave Anderson 06:52
Absolutely. We’re working on technologies that are potentially three to five years from production, but working to make sure that they are manufacturable when they go into production.
Robert Megna 07:05
So what is the future hold? I know the federal government has taken the lead in trying to expand the domestic industry, chip industry, within the United States. And I know that we’re hoping that the center NY CREATES and the center at Albany and the rest of New York plays a pivotal role in that, can you talk a little about what the feds are trying to do. And you know, how you guys will be involved.
Dave Anderson 07:36
I mean, it’s a very exciting time for the industry. The chips and science act is really an incentive based program to bring manufacturing back to the US. And it’s really about creating jobs in the US and manufacturing capability in the US. But that enables economic and national security as a result of that so that we’re not dependent solely on other countries for our chip supply. But that being said, it is just incentives. It’s just that, it helps level the playing field with other regions to enable companies that otherwise might look to other regions to build factories, to build them here in the US. And I think that the outlook of that is very promising with Intel and Ohio, TSMC in Arizona, and of course Micron here in New York. And so, as we look to the chips Act, and the dollars that are going into manufacturing, it will bring manufacturers like Micron back to the US to build their next generation facilities, and many smaller manufacturers as well. And with that comes the ecosystem that builds around it. So, it’s not just about those manufacturing plants, but it’s the entire ecosystem that it supports them that supports them. And part of that ecosystem is research and development. So, the Albany site focused on research and development is very well aligned with the strategy in the chips act for creating a National Semiconductor Technology Center. And there’s also an advanced packaging program, that we have some core capabilities that fit in that realm as well. So NSTC in and of itself is encompassed to be a network of capabilities across the US. So clearly there will be National Semiconductor Technology Center capabilities are centers of excellence around the US. But the Albany site that we have here has really unparalleled technology capabilities for semiconductor processing at 300 millimeter. We have extreme ultraviolet lithography, which is the latest generation of lithography that enables us to scale to the very smallest of dimensions. And we have industry partners that are working on leading-edge technology Is that really present a portfolio of capabilities in Albany that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Robert Megna 10:07
You know, for some of our listeners, maybe, I think one of the things I learned when I got a little bit involved with this, when I was helping out a little bit at SUNY Polytechnic was this concept of a tool that people think of as, like I think of when I hear tool, a screwdriver or something like that. But can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, you mentioned the ultraviolet lithography. But can you talk a little bit about what it means to say a tool in this industry?
Dave Anderson 10:42
Yeah, when we refer to a tool, we’re talking about a very complex piece of equipment that is used for some portion of the manufacturing process, the example I gave of extreme ultraviolet lithography is probably a $350 million screwdriver. It is it is probably the most complex piece of equipment for manufacturing in the world. And it enables printing linewidths and geometries of semiconductor devices at two nanometers as the latest that we’ve been doing. And so, it really is a complex piece of machinery. We refer to it as a tool because we use so many different pieces of machinery are pieces of equipment to process a semiconductor device in a fab or fabrication facility. And so, we just simply refer to them as tools.
Robert Megna 11:42
No, I think it’s, it’s great actually, that we refer to them as tools. What do you see as the future now that this NSTC program is in place? Where does Albany fit in? Do you think?
Dave Anderson 11:59
Well, we feel like Albany fits very centrally into the NSTC, the National Semiconductor Technology Center. Ideally, we’d love to see the headquarters of that capability in Albany. But as I mentioned, it’s to be a national network. And so there will be capabilities spread across the US. But the core capabilities we have in Albany are at the very leading edge and will play a significant role in that NSTC regardless of how it gets structured. So, for us, I mean, as we look to the future at NY CREATES, it’s a very exciting time for us, because we are currently in the scoping phase of our new facility. So, we’re building a new fab, new fabrication facility that will expand our cleanroom footprint that will enable our existing industry partners to expand what they do on site, it will give us capacity to bring in additional NSTC activities. And as we scope additional industry partners, we’re looking at the expansion beyond that to bring in additional industry partners that will enable us to continue to grow. So, for me personally, it’s a great time to build on what we have and lead the next growth phase for that Albany Nanotech Center.
Robert Megna 13:25
Can you talk a little bit about some of your partners, your industry partners and the kinds of roles that they play in this process?
Dave Anderson 13:33
Sure. Our largest industry partner is IBM. They’ve been on site for nearly 20 years. And they do quite a lot of technology development for their industry partners, their own suppliers and, and technology partners. And so, they have been developing technology, the most recent that is announced as a new two nanometer nano sheet technology, which is used in very advanced processor design.
Robert Megna 14:06
Dave not interrupt you can you give folks a sense of what two nanometers kind of means?
Dave Anderson 14:13
Well, we’re getting close to… When we build a device at two nanometers, we are really working at the atomic level at layers of atoms. And so, I wish I did have a way to describe do nanometers better than…
Robert Megna 14:28
I think layers of atoms is good. Because we’re almost past any kind of real visual context that someone would have.
Dave Anderson 14:38
Yeah, I mean, we really do. When we’re processing a device, we’re laying down layers of materials that are essentially in the angstrom measurements and atoms at a time. So, we’re working on the atomic scale and in the devices that are being built today. Leading edge microprocessors have on the order of two ten’s of billions of transistors on a single chip, that’s the size of a fingernail. And so, it really is amazing, the processing capability that’s enabled at those small geometries.
Robert Megna 15:12
And at the manufacturing level right now, you know, what is the standard? Is it this two nanometer or…
Dave Anderson 15:21
No, currently, the state-of-the-art manufacturing is around seven nanometers. Two nanometers is probably three to five years from production.
Robert Megna 15:30
And that’s the kind of stuff that gets done at your facility.
Dave Anderson 15:35
That’s correct. Some of our other industry partners Tokyo Electron and Applied Materials are both a couple of the largest equipment manufacturers, they make the tools we spoke of, for processing. And they’ve been on site for quite a number of years developing their own next generation pieces of equipment that would go into new devices and next generation manufacturing. And they have the ability on our site to do the pre and post processing that they need in order to develop the unit process for their tools, as well as the access to the very small geometries that we can make with lithography tools we have.
Robert Megna 16:17
So, I think people sometimes hear these massive numbers for how expensive these tools are. And you talked about that. But it’s also expensive, then, to actually process through those tools, right? So I never really understood the whole silicone business till, and maybe you can describe the process a little bit, where you’re putting away for through a machine and the cost of just then etching on that machine is incredibly expensive, right?
Dave Anderson 16:54
Yes, so we talk in terms of wafers, and that’s really slices of a single crystal, silicon. So it’s a silicon wafer, pure silicon, that we build a device on it and chips are made many hundreds or thousands of chips on a single wafer through laying a series of interconnected layers on that wafer of materials. And so as I mentioned in microprocessors, there’s tens of billions of transistors on the chip itself. And so when we make those chips, a transistor is like a on and off switch, like a light switch that enables electrons to flow. And that is it creates the ones and zeros for processing. And so you put down billions of transistors, and then you have to interconnect them in some way to make them useful. And so we may go through layers. It’s literally like a photographic process. Like when we used to use film cameras, we lay down a photosensitive layer, and then shine some light through a stencil that we call a photo mask that makes a pattern on that wafer that either gets etched away or built on. And then we repeat that process, maybe 100 or 200 layers on a chip. And so it may take up to four months, actually to process a single wafers through a factory, which is quite expensive.
Robert Megna 18:31
Yeah. Which is why it has to be so clean as well, right?
Dave Anderson 18:34
Yes, our clean rooms are 1000 times cleaner than operating room in a hospital. It’s very clean environment, because single speck of dust can destroy the entire device.
Robert Megna 18:48
I know you’re an expert on this. So I sorry for the simple questions, but I think it’s good for our audience and the general public to know a little bit more about how sophisticated this industry is. And obviously, given that we need a lot of skill, you need a skilled workforce to do this. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Dave Anderson 19:14
Yeah, there’s nearly every skill set in the technology space that goes into semiconductor manufacturing from mechanical engineers, to electrical engineers, to material scientists, chemists, and, and so forth. Because the processing that we do is in some cases chemistry in some cases, it’s using different materials and other things it’s pure physics and you know, building the equipment requires some very extreme knowledge and mechanical system, fluidic systems and electrical systems, and how to build those that equipment and so it really does require full breadth of expertise in order to do Build a device. But more importantly, it requires expertise to build a fab as we build new factories, it’s very specialized construction personnel that are involved in that, because of the nature of building clean rooms and the air handling systems and the water systems and the gas distribution systems and so forth that we use. So it is a very complex manufacturing facility and an even more complex manufacturing environment.
Robert Megna 20:27
I think it’s always helpful for people to understand the process here because it is so … and it’s expensive to run because it requires both the cleanliness but enormous amounts of power and energy, right.
Dave Anderson 20:46
Large manufacturing fab for semiconductor chip production uses the power of a small city. It really is a large use of power. And we use a lot of water as well. Now fortunately, we reclaim and purify that water and, and ultimately goes back into the system. But it is a very expensive proposition to operate that.
Robert Megna 21:10
So, to jump a little bit on you so large use of power and water might be a reason why Micron selected the spot it selected. Is that fair?
Dave Anderson 21:24
Well, certainly, you know, we have a lot of renewable energy in the state of New York. And clearly, we have a lot of water compared to some of the southwestern states, let’s say, but it clearly is an important issue in selecting a location. Now, in addition to power and water, which are at the top of the list, the workforce, the available workforce, and basically the entire supply chain for the workforce. But the available workforce, and to some degree, the quality of life is something that they look for, because they want to make sure their employees stay there for a long time. And so I think New York rates pretty highly in all of those.
Robert Megna 22:13
What are the next steps, what’s going to happen over the next year or two, as part of this process?
Dave Anderson 22:20
Well, the chips act is just being rolled out. And so, we expect that some of the manufacturing dollars will flow for companies that are going to build new factories, early next year, in 2023. There’s still some definition being built around the NSTC. And the advanced packaging programs, we expect to see more clarity on that by first half of next year, and ultimately are preparing to participate in that and somehow so at our site, and Albany, we’re planning on building a new fab in preparation for that, as well as in preparation to grow with our industry partners and new partners that are coming in. So, it really is an aggressive schedule to be prepared for when the NSDC does roll out. But regardless of when that timing is we need the additional capability and capacity for our partners.
Robert Megna 23:24
Given the highly educated nature of the workforce that you talked about, what is it that, you know, what should the relationship be with higher ed? And how do we make that more efficient?
Dave Anderson 23:39
Well, it is really interesting, because the workforce spans all education levels, you know, the operators have the tools and the technicians that are working on the tools and in maintenance and maintaining, they can be two-year degree, you know, coming out of the community colleges. The engineers that we talked about earlier, and the physicists are clearly coming out of university systems at all levels that bachelor’s, master’s, and of course PhDs. Working on the pipeline from the universities is very important for our industry. And we’re fortunate in Albany that, you know, we have SUNY Polytechnic on site. We’re across the street from the University of Albany, we have a very close relationship with SUNY and the Research Foundation, and all of the SUNY universities across the state as well as many others in the region, not only just in New York, but across the New England region and literally across the US. And, you know, I think that companies are recognizing that if they are to bring manufacturing back to the US as part of the CHIPS Act, they will also need the workforce. And so, a key element of the CHIPS Act including the NSTC is workforce development and education and making sure that we put the resources into that, that develop the pipeline that enables those students at all levels from K-12, through the university system, to engage and understand the industry. And, you know, I think that’s one of the challenges we have is, you know, all kids carry around their cell phone. And they know what Google and Tik Tok are. But they don’t realize it without semiconductors, there’s no Tik Tok.
Robert Megna 25:27
My little guy’s hand is going to warp into the shape of iPhone. What should I have asked you that I haven’t asked you? What is on your mind lately, with all of this great stuff coming up? What are you most focused on?
Dave Anderson 25:45
We’re most focused on expanding, expanding our footprint so that we have additional cleanroom space. But it’s not just about the cleanroom space is about the capabilities and the toolset that goes into that space. And so we are, you know, building our new facility to be able to house the next generation of equipment to support the next generation of chip development. And so, we are looking at a HiNA UV tool that would fit in our facility. HiNA a is a high numerical aperture for the tool that enables it to even shrink down to smaller dimensions. And so, we’re building the facility to be capable for many years beyond where we are today. And it’s, it’s an exciting time, too.
Robert Megna 26:37
Can we get to a single nanometer? Or…
Dave Anderson 26:41
Sure, we’ll get down to the, as we said, atomic scale. Yes.
Robert Megna 26:44
It’s fascinating. It really is.
Dave Anderson 26:46
You know, it’s interesting, you know, I’ve been in the industry a long time. And we’re always, you know, since I entered it coming out of school, it’s been talking about running against the laws of physics. And, you know, it’s at some point in time, we’re just, you know, the laws of physics won’t enable us to go any further. But yet, we keep going. And we keep going,
Robert Megna 27:07
is it called Moore’s law is that the law?
Dave Anderson 27:10
Yes, it is. Moore’s law is the doubling of transistor density, about every two years, and we have clearly been able to achieve that for, I think he wrote the papers on the time in the 60s. So, you know, for many years, we’ve been following Moore’s law, which is, you know, it doubles the transistor density, that enables much higher processing capability. But it also reduces the cost per square inch of silicon. And that’s really what’s enabled semiconductors to be prolific in everything, because of the cost of the chips has gone down and gone down and gone down. Because the ability to increase that density of transistors…
Robert Megna 27:55
You know, as an economist, I’ve always been fascinated that people start talking about chips. And it’s kind of funny like a commodity almost now, even though we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars to build the tools, and hundreds of 1000s of dollars to run a wafer through. But I guess because scale has become so you know, big, but also so small at the same time, you can just turn these things out once you figure it out.
Dave Anderson 28:31
Yes. And it’s interesting as we go through cycles. In fact, the industry right now, as we speak, is going through somewhat of a down cycle. After a couple of years of record growth, it’s contracting a bit, it’s only contracting on an average selling price perspective, the unit volumes are still going up. So, as you said, as an economist, you can see that you would continue to build more and more chips for everything. Because as we create new sensors, it collects more data. As we collect new data, it has to be stored, it has to be processed. So, the data centers are getting bigger, we have processing on the edge, which is a whole different type of processing technology. And so, all of this just continues to evolve and expand the production of chips.
Robert Megna 29:19
So that’s interesting, because I have a new car, and I realized that everything in it now is chip enabled, including the dashboard, which is kind of fascinating to me. But speaking of that, you know, we’ve talked about the Albany facility. We also, I think you also have a facility out in Utica as part of SUNY Polytechnic. And aren’t they producing chips on like, one of the companies working on chips that have silicon carbide as opposed to just silicon and maybe you can talk about a little bit.
Dave Anderson 30:00
Sure. It’s mainly used for power applications. And Wolfspeed. A is the company that’s building on silicon carbide. In fact, they built the first 200-millimeter, silicon carbide fab in Utica. And they build power management chips and devices for a large portion of the electric vehicle market. And so they’re there. And then Danfoss is a company that’s also in Utica, that does packaging for power electronics. And so, we have kind of a cluster of power electronics there in the in the Utica area, that is, you know, evolving technologies that, you know, reduce the size, reduce the weight, and increase the charge capabilities and so forth that enable advancements in electric vehicles.
Robert Megna 30:52
Fantastic. Anything else, Dave? you’d like to talk about?
Dave Anderson 30:58
Talk just about anything you want to talk about.
Robert Megna 31:02
No, I think this is great. And I, you know, how many people at the Albany facility now, you know, between the companies and the folks that NY CREATES employs?
Dave Anderson 31:15
Sure. On site, you know, right now, pre COVID, we were running close to 3000 people on site, most recent numbers are somewhere in the 1600 per day on site, and that includes, you know, about 800 or so that are NY CREATES personnel. We have IBM employees, a couple of 100 of them, a couple 100 of Tokyo electronic employees, another 100 or so of Applied Materials, and several other supplier companies that have fewer numbers, but a substantial number of people there, as well as industry partners, and then of course, SUNY Polytechnic personnel, both staff and students. And so, we had on the order of 1600. Today, and you know, over the next few months, as more and more people come back on site, we expect we’ll be back in the two to 3000 range within the next year.
Robert Megna 32:13
Did COVID have an impact on like everywhere else? Or were people able to kind of manage remotely? Or was it a tough period?
Dave Anderson 32:27
it is a tough period, I think for all companies, but you know, the semiconductor industry, it was deemed a critical industry. And so, as a manufacturing facility, we were enabled to continue operations. And I say manufacturing loosely because we are a research and development facility. But the fact that we have manufacturing equipment, that if it shut down is extremely difficult to bring back online. And so, we continued operations through COVID. Now, interestingly enough, many of our suppliers could do remote diagnostics and remote repair, through AV and VR and, and that sort of thing. And so, we really had the ability to have people work both on site inside the factory as well as remotely. So, we still have quite a number of our administrative staff, and even some engineering staff that are still working remotely. Most of the time, while they’re in for a few days every now and then. It’s been a real change in a way that, like everyone, it’s been a change in the way we work.
Robert Megna 33:40
It’s interesting and ironic, right? It’s the computer chip that enables those people to work from home to.
Dave Anderson 33:47
Absolutely, it’s the chip that enabled the VR technologies to be able to, you know, have somebody, for example, working on our lithography tool here in the Fab in Albany that is actually sitting in Belgium, who’s the expert, being able to tell people locally what to look for.
Robert Megna 34:07
Dave, thank you for coming in and talking about this. I think it’s great for people to hear about this. Again, more people work there than I think people imagine. But it’s… and these are actually maybe I’ll ask you about this too. These are also well-paying jobs, right? These are the kinds of jobs we want in New York State, right?
Dave Anderson 34:32
They are the kinds of jobs we want. The average salary in the semiconductor industry is higher, substantially higher than the national average. And so, they are high paying jobs at the technician level, at the engineering level and at the management level. They are, and so they are the types of jobs that we want to have here in the state.
Robert Megna 34:53
It’s fantastic. Anyway, again, thanks for coming in.
Dave Anderson 34:57
Robert Megna 34:59
I think we can end it there.
Alexander Morse 35:12
After the conversation, I had to look something up. Dave mentioned the smallest scale of technology is down to two nanometers, which he described as near the atomic level. Here are some additional references from the National Nanotechnology Initiative. A single sheet of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick. There are over 25 million nanometers in one inch. On a comparative scale, if the diameter of a marble was one nanometer, then the diameter of the Earth would be roughly one meter. I could keep going, but my producers are telling me to stop. All’s to say the scale at which the semiconductor industry is working, is nearly impossible to see and incredibly difficult to fathom, which just goes to show how impressive this all is. Thanks again to Bob Megna, president of the Rockefeller Institute, and Dave Anderson, president of NY CREATES for taking the time to talk shop about nanotechnology and the semiconductor industry, and what we can expect to see in this industry moving forward. If you liked this episode, please rate subscribe and share. It will help others find the podcast and help us deliver the latest and public policy research. All of our episodes are available for free wherever you stream, your podcasts and transcripts are available on our website. Special thanks to Rockefeller Institute staff Joel Tirado, Heather Trela, and Laura Schultz for their contributions to this episode. Thanks for listening. I’m Alex Morse. Until next time. Policy Outsider is presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The Institute conducts cutting edge nonpartisan public policy research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the challenges facing New York state and the nation. Learn more at rockinst.org or by following at Rockefeller inst. That’s Rockefeller i n s t on social media. Have a question comment or idea? Email us at [email protected].
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