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Intel poaches TSMC Open Innovation Platform founder Suk Lee

Fred Chen


Intel has hired Suk Lee, a TSMC veteran, to lead its newly established Ecosystem Technology Office. Suk Lee will be responsible for expanding the design technology ecosystem at the Intel Foundry Services division by bringing in additional partners. Ecosystem development is crucial for the long-term success of IFS, Intel's contract chip production business.

For over a year, Intel has been working diligently to make IFS work. It hired many new people and even acquired Tower Semiconductor to obtain more talent, a set of clients, and mature/specialty process technologies. Poaching a high-ranking TSMC executive is a landmark event and is another example of how serious Intel is about its contract manufacturing business.
Cliff wrote the foreword of my book Fabless:

Foreword Dr. Cliff Hou, Vice President, Research and Development, TSMC Semiconductor innovation has the power to change the world. Although, well over half a century ago, when semiconductors first came into being, few people really saw that promise. That power of semiconductors to innovate has stretched beyond its original applications. It also has changed how semiconductors are manufactured.

Over the first 30 years of its existence, the semiconductor industry followed the proven integrated manufacturing model of the time. Those companies who owned the manufacturing assets made, marketed, researched and developed their own products. But then, the dynamics of innovation mingled with laws of supply and demand and a new concept— outsourcing—emerged and gave birth to what is known today as the dedicated foundry model, and the world has never been the same.

Dr. Morris Chang is credited with identifying the innovation need and providing the resources to meet it. The need was making available manufacturing resources that are 100 percent dedicated to those emerging semiconductor companies that lacked the financial wherewithal to own their own expensive equipment. Like all great ideas, the premise was simple. What no one foresaw is that it would give rise to two, if not three, new industry segments, all of which contribute greatly to the innovative spirit of the industry today.

When Dr. Chang established the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in 1987, the foundry segment and the fabless semiconductor model were born. Today, fabless semiconductor companies—those companies who do not own manufacturing resources—are the fountainhead of innovation that is the foundation for our electronic world. The foundry segment has allowed these companies to invest in design and innovation rather than in manufacturing. As a result, innovation and the world economy have raced forward at an unprecedented pace. This has given nearly every semiconductor company the flexibility to innovate widely and creatively, constantly expanding the universe of products we rely upon today.

Equally remarkable has been the rise of a powerful design ecosystem to complement the fabless industry. The ecosystem works in unison with designers and foundries to ensure that the IP, design tools, and services needed to get next-generation designs taped-out and in production are proven and ready to help customers meet their time-to-market goals. Today, the emergence of the fabless model, the dedicated foundry industry segment and an independent design ecosystem are driving the mobile revolution and will be the foundation of the internet-of-things.

Even as this book was being written, the semiconductor industry continued to evolve. The drive to integrate the design and manufacturing links in the semiconductor value chain is now being extended downstream (to manufacturing equipment and materials suppliers) and upstream to major product companies. This is taking on the power of integration— virtual integration. Virtual integration is, by definition, the power of collaboration that blazes the direction and vision for the next generation of innovation.

Innovation will always be the hallmark of the semiconductor industry and it is the theme that runs through this book. I’m honored and humbled to be part of this exciting industry and equally honored and humbled to offer my comments as the introduction to this book. Dr. Cliff Hou, January 2014