The industry I have chosen to investigate, and claim will be a big disruption in the future – although it isn’t poised for market yet – is the carbon nanotube (CNT) processor. Carbon nano technology was highlighted as a disruptive technology in a May 2013 report from McKinsey Quarterly (Manyika, 2013). The reason I believe it will be disruptive is because carbon nano processors have the potential to be much more energy efficient and compact (per processing capacity) than silicon based transistors. The infamous Moore’s Law has accurately predicted the improvements of silicon based semiconductor technology since it was stated by Moore in 1965 (Moore, 1965). While 9nm silicon chips are manufactured today, the the inherent quantum limitations posed by silicon-based semiconductor technology threaten to cause the development pace to drop below Moore’s expected level of improvement by 2020 at the 7nm scale (Merritt, 2013). On the other hand, a CNT-based processing computer was featured in Nature Journal of Science and several other mainstream science media outlets last month (Shulaker, 2013; Timmer, 2013). While not commercially viable today, Stanford University’s new CNT-based multitasking system could mean that CNT technology is poised to disrupt silicon long before the expected expiry date of 2020.
The multi-trillion dollar questions is, have all the big chip makers prepared for the disruption of CNT technology or, are some more prepared than others? Semiconductor manufacturing has an enormous economic barrier to entry because the infrastructure required to manufacture semiconductors is expensive and extensive. This is reflected in the average market capital of the semiconductor firms (ref). in 2005, the estimated R&D budget for semiconductor R&D was estimated at about 10.6 billion for 2010, and fears existed three years ago that a gap between the required R&D input and actual R&D allocation could develop because of lower revenues for chip-makers (Leckie, 2005). The costs of building and running semiconductor manufacturing facility (rdmag.com, 2012). Just more than 300 fab facilities for 150-300mm wafers exist today (rdmag.com, 2012).
The industry is currently dominated by large american and asian chip-makers such as Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm, Broadcom ,Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, AMD, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, and others. Semiconductor manufacturing and sales also make large direct contributions to national GPD in the US and globally, and has been estimated at about 1.7 trillion (Manyika, 2013). Also, there are many indirect benefits to the national economy such as: attracting other high-tech investment and commerce, and setting high education standards in University research labs and attracting top researchers (Dewey & LeBoeuf, 2009). National semiconductor research and funding policies are of upmost importance to stay competitive in the global race (Dewey & LeBoeuf, 2009). Any miscalculation in the technology road mapping with respect to the carbon-nano disruption could cause significant disruption to GDP as well.
Dewey & LeBoeuf, 2009. MAINTAINING AMERICA’S COMPETITIVE EDGE: GOVERNMENT POLICIES AFFECTING SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY R&D AND MANUFACTURING ACTIVITY. http://www.semiconductors.org/clientuploads/directory/DocumentSIA/Research%20and%20Technology/Compet…
Leckie, Ron. 2005. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS, STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENTS AND MARKET STRUCTURE. THE CASE OF GSM. http://www.infras-advisors.com/reports/FundingFuture.pdf
Manyika, James. 2013. “Disruptive Technologies : Advances That Will Transform Life , Business , and the Global Economy.” McKinsey Quarterly (May).
Merritt, Rick. 2013. Moore’s Law Dead by 2022, Expert Says. http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319330
Moore, GE. 1965. “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits” 38 (8).http://web.eng.fiu.edu/npala/EEE5425/Gordon_Moore_1965_Article.pdf.
RDMAG.com. 2013. R&D Funding Forecast, 2012. Advantage Business Media. http://www.rdmag.com/sites/rdmag.com/files/GFF2013Final2013_reduced.pdf
Shulaker, Max, M. 2013. Carbon nanotube computer, Nature International Weekly Journal of Science. Issue 501, 526–530.
Timmer, John. 2013. Processor made from carbon nanotubes runs multitasking OS. ArsTechnica.