Semiconductors are all around us. They control the computers we use to conduct business, the phones and mobile devices we use to communicate, the cars and planes that get us from place to place, the machines that diagnose and treat illnesses, the military systems that protect us, and the electronic gadgets we use to listen to music, watch movies and play games, just to name a few. Simply put, without semiconductors, the technology that we count on every day would not be possible.
And not only does semiconductor technology make these devices possible, it also makes them more compact, less expensive, and more powerful. For example, in 1984, mobile phones weighed about 2 lbs., cost around $4,000, and held a charge for only about 30 minutes of talk time. In 2014, smartphones are about one-third of an inch thick, cost consumers about $200, stay charged for around 8 hours of talk time, and come equipped with many added features such as advanced cameras and data packages.
The key to maintaining the advancements that fuel our industry and the U.S. economy is research. Unfortunately, U.S. investments in R&D as a share of GDP have decreased in recent decades. For example, the percentage of U.S. gross domestic expenditures on R&D funded by the government declined from 47.1% in 1981 to 33.4% in 2011. (Source: OECD) And over the last ten years, R&D expenditures as a share of economic output have remained nearly constant in the U.S., but have increased by nearly 50% in South Korea and nearly 90% in China. (Source: NSF S&E Indicators 2012)
At SIA, a common theme of the initiatives we support – policies to drive innovation, research programs of our affiliated organizations, etc. – is that all of them are intended to maintain and accelerate advancements in our industry. Working together, we can ensure that semiconductors continue to improve our lives.