Much has happened in the world since Dan Hutcheson sat down with Tom Caulfield, CEO of GLOBALFOUNDRIES to have a conversation about the direction of the semiconductor industry. Since then, the world has been upended by a number of geopolitical events. The most disruptive has been COVID-19, which has brought new challenges to chip companies. There was the obvious challenge to management. But more surprising was the surge in demand that came from digitalization breaking out of its status as a boardroom topic to save the economy from Great Depression levels of economic collapse. While digitalization kept many businesses afloat and children in school as people worked at home, this new normal was woefully inadequate. Society and businesses in the post-COVID-19 world are pivoting from evolutionary to revolutionary adoption of digital technology. Tom sees a grand challenge for the semiconductor industry to transform the new normal into a “better normal.” GF sees three emergent megatrends: Frictionless Networking, Pervasive deployment of Virtualization, and Hierarchical AI with AI everywhere. As Tom puts it, “Before COVID-19, there was a feeling that technology was moving faster than humankind could adjust. But now, the world needs our industry to accelerate the digital transformation. The semiconductor industry has always had the responsibility and obligation to create solutions that benefit humankind. This is not just an opportunity for our industry, it is our calling.”
That’s not all. This structural restructuring of the economy via digitalization has created an enormous hurdle for our industry to deal with the acceleration in the consumption of power. To address this, GF is redefining the leading-edge of innovation by building a number of innovative solutions that can “flatten the curve” and significantly lower the power consumption. Plus, new geopolitical forces such as trade wars and the move towards a decoupling have exposed supply chain strengths and vulnerabilities … especially with single points of failure at concentrated manufacturing centers on the ring of fire’s Asian side. Thus, concerns about a need for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing have become relevant at a geopolitical level for the first time in decades.
We also discuss what’s happened at GLOBALFOUNDRIES over the last two years. Back then GF had just reorganized its go-to-market strategy around targeted market segments. Tom provides some examples of how GF has become vital to semiconductor foundry users. Did you know GF makes the chips for a smartphone’s connection to the base station through the front-end module? The chips for tuners, low noise amplifiers, power amplifiers, and integrated switches? Contactless, secure transactions using Near Field Communications with embedded memory? The audio, touch screen, battery life, and camera? All these chips provide the critical functions to make smartphones smart.