Leading the Semiconductor Industry

ISSUE #57 – Interview with François Guibert, Executive VP & President, Greater China & South Asia Region, STMicroelectronics

ST is a global leader in the semiconductor market serving customers across the spectrum of sense and power and automotive products and embedded processing solutions. From energy management and savings to trust and data security, from healthcare and wellness to smart consumer devices, in the home, car and office, at work and at play, ST is found everywhere microelectronics make a positive and innovative contribution to people’s life.

STMicroelectronics’ first back-end plant in Asia was established in Singapore in 1969 in Boon Keng.

WHEN WAS ST ESTABLISHED HERE AND WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DID YOU SEE IN SINGAPORE?

FGuibertST’s first back-end plant in Asia was established in Singapore in 1969 in Boon Keng. It later moved to Toa Payoh where it still stands today. At that time, the semiconductor industry in Singapore was somewhat unchartered territory and we could not have foreseen that ST was about to kick-start Singapore’s new engine of growth.

Singapore was mature, with knowledge and infrastructure, and armed with a keen ability to provide technical support. The back-end plant in Singapore was ideal for mechanisation, which brought with it quality, lower cycle time, productivity, and better service. Today, the little red dot has become the world’s second largest wafer fab centre accounting for:

  • 1 out of 10 wafer starts in the world;
  • 14 silicon wafer fabrication plants including the world’s top three wafer foundries;
  • 20 semiconductor assembly and test operations including three of the world’s top six outsourced semiconductor assembly and test companies;
  • 15 of the world’s top 25 fabless semiconductor companies and close to 40 IC design companies.

ST thus cemented its position as a major industry player in Asia Pacific, the fastest growing semiconductor market in the world.

HOW HAS YOUR COMPANY EVOLVED FROM ITS FIRST YEAR HERE TO TODAY?

Formerly known as SGS-Thomson Microelectronics, SGS-Thomson was incorporated in Europe in 1987 following the merger of Thomson Semiconducteurs in France and SGS Microelecttronica in Italy. In 1998, it was renamed to STMicroelectronics. It has been publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: STM) and Euronext Paris since 1994, and the Borsa Italiana since 1998.

ST was the first semiconductor company to invest and set up both a wafer fab and an IC design centre in Asia, located since 1984 at the STMicroelectronics Techno Park in Ang Mo Kio. It took the unprecedented and daunting step of making a major investment in a high-tech manufacturing process as well as IC design, something that had never been done before locally. Indeed, there was no existing wafer fabrication industry in Singapore then, and many important components were non-existent: expertise to manage and run a wafer fab, industry professionals, supporting industries and suppliers, a smooth, uninterrupted electrical power supply, and large quantities of clean water. Still, ST went ahead as the company sought to be close to its customers in Asia.

At the same time, Singapore started investing in equipping and preparing its workforce with the necessary knowledge and know-how for the booming job market, including in electronics and services.

The pro-business growth policies implemented by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the government helped speed up ST’s expansion and confidence in the region. The EDB further supported ST in recruiting talent, subsidising the cost of training them overseas – production operators were sent to Europe to be trained. All was not smooth-sailing as we had to ride out the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and the Semiconductor Crisis of
2009.

Despite the volatility of the electronics sector, ST remained committed to the Tripartite Partnership. Working in partnership with the union and government agencies, ST has upskilled and reskilled existing workers, including mature workers, for higher value-added jobs within the company in Singapore to enhance workers’ employability, minimise job losses and improve workers’ earning prospects.

STM

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY PROJECTS YOU HAVE COMPLETED IN SINGAPORE?

Our wafer fabrication operations at the Technopark have grown into the company’s largest wafer-fabrication site by volume, and contribute to Singapore’s top-five status in the world in terms of wafer fabrication capacity. ST’s state-of-the-art design activities in Singapore have also generated more than 450 patent filings to date. BHQ status was also conferred to the Singapore office in 1994. This underlined the reliability of Singapore’s infrastructure and potential to become a world-class investment hub for companies looking to conduct and expand their global businesses. In this context, ST’s commitment to sustainable excellence has been acknowledged by several awards, including the Singapore Quality Award in 1999, the Distinguished Partner in Progress in 2000, and the President’s Award for the Environment in 2009.

In the last 46 years, Singapore has served as the springboard for ST’s expansion in Asia, utilising the management and technical expertise accumulated here to set up operations in all of the major markets of the region.

 

Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “SG50” – May 2015