MEMS is Hot at Globalpress Electronics Summit

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

“MEMS is HOT” was the name of the MEMS panel at the 2010 Globalpress Electronics Summit and I’d add that if MEMS is hot, then the MEMS panel was smokin’ hot. For a second year it was my pleasure to work with Globalpress to host a MEMS panel of MIG members at their annual Electronics Summit (an organized reverse press tour featuring international media). While last year’s program was impressive, this year was really truly great and I’ll tell you why.

There are a few reasons–but I think the main reason was the superb job Steve Ohr of Gartner did as the moderator. He worked together the panelists as a story:

First it was Dr. Frank Melzer of Bosch Sensortec discussing his company’s meteoric rise as a darling of consumer MEMS applications.

He was followed by Mark Martin of Analog Devices who spoke of the three waves of MEMS development/applications: first automotive, then consumer and now we are moving into a larger and wider mass adoption of MEMS in industrial and medical markets/products.

Kionix’s Eric Eisenhut discussed his company’s recent acquisition by Rohm and how Kionix’s products add value through “application innovation” vs. the other path of system integration.

Jack Blaha of Applied Materials told the tale of why a mega-giant company like Applied Materials has chosen to enter the MEMS market. Simply stated:  it’s about the money. MEMS is seen as a lucrative untapped market and they want a slice of the ever-expanding pie.

The last panelist was Dr. Mike Jamiolkowski who spoke of Coventor’s holistic approach to the MEMS ecosystem and the “democratization of MEMS.”

Very rarely can I sit in a room of people (let alone 60+ journalists) and realize that the audience is really listening to a story. But at the MEMS panel at Globalpress Electronics Summit, I was witness to just that. The journalists were honestly intrigued and interested in the panelists’ perspectives on how MEMS is fueling the growth of a worldwide economic turnaround.

After the panelists completed their five minute presentations, there was barely a minute of reprieve before the journalists began their questions. Of course, there were questions about standards (and why MEMS can’t have standards like IC). But mainly there were questions regarding the system integration/enabling capabilities of MEMS. Panelists spoke of the revenues and potential revenues of MEMS – the industry was finally making it into the big leagues now and seemed to gain respect of the journalists in the audience. There was a bit of a “agree to disagree” discussion regarding captive fabs vs. fabless models for MEMS manufacture – which is a great prelude for MIG’s upcoming members’ annual meeting, METRIC (May 18-19 in San Jose) focused on MEMS fabrication.

The one surprise question was about talent and the concern that the talent for MEMS engineers was lacking. This is a valid point and the panelists answered that they believed there was no talent shortage because employees from the semiconductor industry can be easily transferred into MEMS. However, there is an “experience shortage” in that because MEMS is inter-disciplinary it’s important for MEMS companies to create an open, cross-communication environment where teams can easily work together and tweak and, eventually, get it just right.

However, I believe that there’s a greater need to connect universities with MEMS – even beyond the good work that groups like BSAC are doing. There is a need for more internships at MEMS companies large and small. I am not aware of such a program–so if you have any ideas or suggestions, please contact me. I know of at least one MIG member who’s passionate about this idea.

Before you knew it, the 75-minute panel was over and journalists were leaping out of their seats to ask more questions and request that I send them the presentations and MEMS market data from Yole, iSuppli and Gartner that MIG supplied to journalists on thumb drives (I handed them out to most but not all – I ran out). At the lunch afterwards I had the pleasure of sitting with several journalists who spoke of how they enjoyed the panel discussion. They were especially impressed how these competitors seemed to really respect each other and get along. I gotta say, I felt very proud, as I believe it’s a tribute to the MIG-mantra of linking and growing the global MEMS supply chain. The whole idea of joining MIG is so that you can be in the same room with your competitors and everyone does get along. I hope this characteristic of the MEMS industry remains;  it’s one of the reasons I really enjoy working in it and for it.

The last part of my trip to the West Coast was driving the winding roads from the Chaminade in Santa Cruz up to Fremont to have a very yummy and engaging dinner with Acuity founders Jim Knutti and Henry Allen. They showed me their beautiful home which they basically doubled in size after selling Silicon Microstructures. The kitchen was amazing–they have nearly every cooking gadget and appliance you can imagine. My favorite was the steamer–I definitely need to get my hands on one! But definitely the piece de resistance was the “dungeon” wine cellar. I have never seen so much wine in one room in a house (not a restaurant or bar). Wow. I had the pleasure of picking out a red wine from California’s gold coast to accompany dinner. Thank you Jim and Henry for a wonderful evening.

Now I am just looking forward to staying put in Pittsburgh for three weeks until METRIC in San Jose.

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