Why now is the best time to be working in semiconductors
22/05/2020 by MRL
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2019 was a tumultuous year for the semiconductor industry. According to Gartner, worldwide revenue from the sector declined by 11.9 per cent last year, due mainly to an oversupply in the memory market, but further complicated by US-China trade wars. Add to this the ending of Moore’s Law and it would be easy to think that semiconductors had had their day. Many people have even said the semiconductor industry is dying. In reality this is far from true.
But in reality this is far from true. The industry is predicted to have a rebound in 2020, followed by record high revenues the following year. Indeed, Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO of industry analyst Future Horizons, has said that 2019’s “sharp correction” was a “good omen” for the industry and that chip vendors plan for these corrections, so that they can survive the downturn in semiconductor’s boom-bust cycles.
So, while we may see changes in the industry, as new players and geographies take advantage of the downturn, production and innovation will continue. The connected world depends on it.
The semiconductor industry is sometimes unfairly thought of as being old-fashioned, particularly when compared to new and emerging markets such as Artificial Intelligence, IoT and Robotic Process Automation. In reality, however, these technologies all depend upon advancement within semiconductors. There are chips in every piece of technology, and unless these chips get smaller, faster and better, the technology it powers will stall.
As the mobile phone market reaches maturity, chip makers are increasingly diversifying, focusing on new demands in medtech, smart manufacturing and advanced robotics. Both Skyworks and Qorvo, for example, have moved from predominantly specialising in smartphone chips to earning as much as one third of their revenue from business and defence focused connectivity.
Research from PwC notes that innovation within semiconductors has historically been driven by disruptive new technology – such as PCs, the internet and smartphones – and predicts that AI will be the next big force for change. PwC anticipates that the market for AI-related semiconductors will grow from $6 billion to $30 billion by 2022 – a CAGR of almost 50 per cent.
The automotive sector provides a wealth of opportunities for semiconductor manufacturers, because every part of the car is changing. Vehicles are getting smarter piece by piece, with the four automotive ‘megatrends’ – electrification, autonomy, connectivity and mobility as a service – setting the pace for innovation and propelling the automotive semiconductor market to reach $76.93 billion by 2027 and $200 billion by 2040.
Although car makers have been building vehicles that connect with the outside world since the 1990s, when General Motors introduced OnStar, the next generation of vehicles will require a whole new level of connectivity. Intel estimates that a connected car could generate at least 4 terabytes of data per day – data which must be stored, secured, transmitted and analysed with utmost reliability, safety and security. This alone is enough to drive innovation for chip makers.
Connectivity is not just a big trend in automotive; it is something currently being explored by almost every sector – healthcare, manufacturing, finance, hospitality, retail; the list goes on. These markets are open to semiconductor businesses like never before, and the industry must rise to the challenge and seize upon opportunities. But, to do so requires a steady stream of talent.
Experts in electrical engineering are likely to have their pick of roles over the next few years, as opportunities in the semiconductor industry enable them to work with life-changing products. Whether it is the early detection of cancer or the first road-legal self driving cars, semiconductor organisations are currently creating chips which revolutionise day-to-day living.
There is a particular need for people who understand this technology and can communicate its benefits to the various sectors that rely upon these innovations. Commercially focused positions like Account Managers, Field Application Engineers and Product Marketing Engineers are already in demand. As semiconductors continue to grow into new markets, these roles will be vital to organisations. To work in semiconductors today is to work within an industry which is the driving force of many others. So should you get a job in the semiconductors industry? In short - without a doubt. The opportunities are limitless.
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