Making chips is hard work. Researching the architecture of future chips and their production processes is even harder: it takes 18 times more researchers today than in the 1970s to double the transistor density of chips every two years (Moore’s Law). Nonetheless, our society and industry today depend substantially more on these innovative breakthroughs in semiconductor technologies than in the 1970s. We are increasingly in need of energy-efficient power semiconductors for electric vehicles, radio frequency chips for our mobile networks, and artificial intelligence (AI) accelerators to create pictures of astronaut cats, to name just a few. Therefore, the semiconductor industry has one of the highest research and development (R&D) expenditures of all industries—with companies spending an average of 18% of their sales on R&D—second only to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Research is at the heart of the semiconductor industry. Yet, policymakers, and their subsidy packages, as well as the media and public discourse, seem to be overly focused on where and by whom chips are built and much less on who develops them. This paper attempts to illuminate what we believe to be a blind spot.
In our semiconductor data briefs, through quantitative analysis, we put the spotlight on segments of the global semiconductor value chain that are typically not at the center of attention of most policy makers. Earlier this year, we analyzed global semiconductor startup funding and the geography of investment flows. In 2021, we examined the geography of global semiconductor research for the first time. This paper further deepens our analysis. The 2021 publication analyzed the data on a country level to understand (1) how research power shifted geographically over time and (2) which countries collaborated the most with each other.
In this paper, we expanded our dataset to explore three questions. First, how research power is distributed between academia and private companies—globally as well as per country—since 1995. Second, which academic institutions, research and technology organizations (RTOs), and private companies have coauthored the most conference papers since 1995 and whether we can observe changes over time. Third, whether EU universities and RTOs mainly collaborate with the European Union (EU) industry or with companies outside of the EU.
The goal of this research is to inform various policy discussions in the EU and abroad, from innovation and research policy to industrial policy and state aid regulation. For policymakers to meaningfully strengthen academic research, the activities of RTOs, and the research power of private companies, different policy interventions will be necessary. Our analysis provides a quantitative foundation for these discussions.
The first section of this paper introduces the data and provides a first assessment of the distribution of research power between academia and industry in different countries. The second section presents interactive charts to explore how research power between academia and companies, as well as collaboration between the two, shifted over time in different countries. The third section describes the results of quantifying the research power of leading companies and academic institutions based on paper contributions. The last section is a deep dive into the research power of the EU’s RTO ecosystem.
As with all our data briefs, we collaborated with SNV’s Data Science Unit to analyze the data. We invite you to explore the data yourself through the three interactive charts in the two Chapters “Academic and Industrial Research Power“ and “Top 20 in Industry and Academia”. For questions regarding our methodology and the data science aspects of this analysis, please reach out to Laurenz Hemmen. As for questions regarding the topic of R&D in the chip industry and the semiconductor value chain in general, Jan-Peter Kleinhans and Julia Hess would be delighted to hear from you.