Applied Materials and A*Star extend R&D collaboration with new $286m investment

ytcentre23-ol/24 - Staff from Applied Materials carrying out research and product development activities for heterogeneous integration in the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Packaging in Singapore.Credit: Applied Materials
The Centre of Excellence in Advanced Packaging in Singapore, the joint lab of Applied Materials and A*Star. PHOTO: APPLIED MATERIALS

SINGAPORE - Singapore is gearing up to meet the demand for faster, better devices of the future with a new US$210 million (S$286 million) joint research investment with semiconductor equipment giant Applied Materials unveiled on Thursday (Dec 23).

The United States-headquartered manufacturer and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Institute of Microelectronics (IME) are extending their research collaboration for a third phase and a further five years to 2026.

Their joint lab, the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Packaging in Singapore, was set up in 2011 to develop advanced 3D chip packaging capabilities.

The latest investment will go towards upgrading and expanding the centre to accelerate materials, equipment and process technology solutions for hybrid bonding and other emerging 3D chip integration technologies.

The expansion will provide semiconductor and systems companies with a complete suite of tools and technologies for developing and prototyping hybrid bonding package designs.

Hybrid bonding technology is used in manufacturing semiconductors to improve power efficiency and system performance. Its applications include image sensors and memory chips.

Applied Materials and A*Star's IME have invested a combined US$450 million over three phases of collaboration at the centre.

This latest phase will see about 3,500 sq ft of lab space added to the centre and the hiring of around 30 new staff. The centre currently has a team of about 150 research and development (R&D) staff.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong was at the ceremony to kick off the third phase of collaboration between the two organisations on Thursday. It was held at A*Star's premises in one-north.

Professor Alfred Huan, assistant chief executive of A*Star's Science and Engineering Research Council, outlined how this research collaboration will benefit more partners in the wider semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in Singapore.

"It will attract new industry players and also strengthen Singapore's position as a global leader in advanced packaging.

"Along the way, there will be creation of more business opportunities and also the training of talent, adding more value to the semiconductor sector, working with companies to co-develop solutions," he said at a virtual media briefing on Thursday.

Applied Materials, a global leader in making machines used to manufacture semiconductors and other high-tech components, has been operating in Singapore for 30 years. It has three R&D labs here and has launched six advanced products from Singapore since 2011.

It has generated 160 patents in Singapore since it added its first R&D hire in the Republic in 2001, added Mr Brian Tan, regional president for Applied Materials South-east Asia.

The research talents that the centre attracts and develops also gain exposure to the rest of the world, he said.

"The technologies that we are enabling from Singapore (are) basically for all our global customers in the entire global semiconductor system, so that connection and that exposure for the talents working in the Centre of Excellence are very, very exciting."

A*Star's IME executive director (designate) Terence Gan said that for the research efforts to be successful, a combined effort is required, not just from the two organisations, but also from the whole ecosystem.

The centre will be the "rallying point" for more than 100 companies and end-users, suppliers, equipment vendors and researchers, he said.

"As we continue to demand cheaper, better, faster devices, this third phase of research will be the cornerstone to enable many of these devices that you will use in the future as well," added Mr Gan.

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