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Samsung Electronics hosts the ‘SAFE Forum’ to bolster the foundry ecosystem

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Designing your Future with SAFE(세이프와 함께 미래를 설계하다) 현장
Designing your Future with SAFE(세이프와 함께 미래를 설계하다) 현장
Samsung Electronics hosted the ‘SAFE (SAFE, Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem) Forum’ online from the 28th to the 29th of October. The aim of the forum is to bolster Samsung’s foundry ecosystem in the U.S., Korea, Japan, China, and Europe. The SAFE Forum is in its second year and is an event for customers and partners to gather and share the latest in cutting-edge foundry technologies. The forum was an opportunity for Samsung partners in each field to explain their solutions and consult customers.
SAFE 포럼 프리젠테이션 화면
SAFE 포럼 프리젠테이션 화면
The theme of this year’s forum was ‘Designing your Future with SAFE’. Upwards of 3,000 global partners and customers participated and shared the latest technological trends. A major area of focus among partners was state-of-the-art foundry solutions in the area of ‘HPC (High Performance Computing)’, a field where high future growth is expected. Samsung partners operated 77 online booths and held 63 technical sessions in the area.

Developing a ‘virtuous cycle’ ecosystem for domestic system semiconductors - Reinforcing cooperation with IP firms to boost foundry business competitiveness

Samsung Electronics’ ‘SAFE (Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem)’ program has been operated since 2018 in close cooperation with partner firms in the areas of △EDA (electronic design automation), △IP, △Cloud, △design and △packages. As a result, design methodology, IP, and package platforms at the customer’s disposal when designing products using Samsung Electronics’ foundry processes have increased approximately 1.5 times from last year. Particular emphasis has been placed on expanding cooperation with small- to medium-sized Korean IP firms to promote growth of the system semiconductor ecosystem. Helping small and medium Korean businesses in the field of system semiconductors improve their business capacities promotes collaboration among partners and clients, creating a ‘virtuous cycle’ in the ecosystem.

*IP(Intellectual Property) : Circuit block in charge of a specific function of a semiconductor product *IP firm: A firm specializing in semiconductor design, similar to a fabless chip maker. An IP firm provides specific IP to a fabless chip maker, IDM or foundry, and receives royalties for use of the IP.

Notably, close to two years of cooperation with domestic IP firms have started to bear fruit. Among the stars of this year’s SAFE Forum were ‘Qualitas Semiconductor’ and ‘TechwidU.’ In cooperation with Samsung Electronics, the two firms have developed upwards of 10 mobile interface IPs and analog IPs each, harnessing technical know-how acquired in the process to take on direct customer support.

*Mobile interface IP : A mobile-optimized communication protocol IP with low power consumption *Analog IP : IP handling power supply for semiconductor chip operation, clock supply and various analog signals as needed

How helpful has Samsung Electronics’ SAFE Program been for small and medium Korean IP firms? We sat down with ‘Qualitas Semiconductor’ and ‘TechwidU’ to discuss the virtuous cycle that has helped these firms expand their IP business and has also contributed to growth of the domestic system semiconductor market.

Duho Kim, CEO, Qualitas Semiconductors: Samsung partner in establishing a virtuous cycle in the Korean semiconductor ecosystem

퀄리타스반도체 김두호 대표
퀄리타스반도체 김두호 대표
Q. What are your thoughts on this year’s SAFE Forum? The presentations by Samsung and major partners gave us insight into what technologies we should develop in the future and how we should position ourselves in the market. We were contacted by more clients than we expected through the real-time conferencing feature on the online platform, and the event was a great opportunity to discuss collaboration opportunities. Q. Tell us how Qualitas Semiconductor has grown. We were founded in February 2017 as a fabless chip maker providing IC solutions for ultra high-speed interconnects. Our early years were spent developing and laying our technical foundations, and naturally revenue was almost non-existent. In 2019 we started working with Samsung Foundry, and this is when our IP business started in earnest. To be honest, at the start of the partnership we only knew how to make IP and lacked any infrastructure for development. Revenue from cooperation with Samsung has helped us build infrastructure and accumulate design know-how, boosting the design capacities of our staff in the process. Having acquired the capacity to develop MIPI IP (mobile interface IP), in 2020 we were able to develop a direct IP business capacity through the SAFE program. Now we are able to provide licenses to Samsung Electronics Foundry clients and also take charge of technical support. Samsung Electronics has become able to support a broader range of customers through IP in various fields, and we have become able to share the profits from the business. It’s a win-win situation. We’re now able to call ourselves a real business-capable IP vendor. Since 2020, we have been developing our own IP through the SAFE program, contributing directly to the Samsung Foundry ecosystem. Having our own technical and business capacity in IP, we’ve grown to a point where we can enter the global market as an outright IP vendor. The numbers speak for themselves. Revenue stood at KRW 62 million in 2017, but this leaped to KRW 1.25 billion in 2019 when our cooperation with Samsung began. We expect to gross KRW 2.5 billion in 2020, and sharp growth from year to year is expected to continue. We started with just 5 staff members in 2017, but now have 46 employees as of November 2020. The numbers are doubling each year.
퀄리타스 반도체 임원진
퀄리타스 반도체 임원진
Q. You mentioned development of your own IP. How has the SAFE Program been helpful in that department? Developing IP for state-of-the-art .FinFET processes is extremely difficult, but creates extremely higher added value. Under the SAFE Program, IP vendors are allowed to use the Samsung FinFET process when producing IP prototypes. This allows us to develop a high-added-value FinFET process IP with major savings in development costs and development time. This kind of support makes it possible for firms like us to develop in-house IP without the risk and cost burden. Q. Any other comments? There are still only a handful of Korean IP firms. Expansion of the foundry ecosystem will naturally lead to growth, both in number of firms and size. Samsung Foundry is taking the lead in spurring revenue growth for the ecosystem, which is in turn giving rise to many new firms. “A one-team bond with Samsung Foundry” CEO Kim Hyeong Lae of TechwidU, a firm whose growth was made possible by collaboration through SAFE
테크위드유 김형래 대표
테크위드유 김형래 대표
Q. What are your thoughts on this year’s SAFE Forum? It was a great opportunity to discuss the latest technology trends and future directions with EDA (electronic design automation) and IDM (integrated device manufacturer) firms. The forum left us pondering strategy to remain competitive as an IP firm in the fast-changing domestic environment while making inroads into foreign markets. While our business growth until now is due to Samsung support as a SAFE member, we aim to preemptively develop a wide range of IP to reinforce Samsung’s IP lineup, making potential clients seek us out. Q. You’ve been collaborating with Samsung Electronics in analog IP development for the past two years. What was the process like? TechwidU continues to work with Samsung so that we can handle customer licenses and technical support firsthand. The partnership has given us the opportunity to furnish analog IP to various domestic and overseas customers who wish to utilize Samsung Foundry. This has allowed us to reduce IP development costs, develop the IP Samsung wants, and consult directly with customers in Korea and overseas regarding development specs. As for our clients, the TechwidU-Samsung partnership has made it possible for clients to equip products with optimized IP. It’s been a beneficial relationship for all involved.
테크위드유 임직원 사진
테크위드유 임직원 사진
Q. Any memorable moments in your partnership with Samsung? We started working with Samsung in 2018, when we had just 15 staff members. As of 2020, we have 27. Revenue has increased from just KRW 1.4 billion to a projected KRW 7 billion by the year’s end; obviously the SAFE Program has been immensely helpful to our growth and progress. We also take pride in being a Samsung IP partner and, through our partnership under the SAFE Program, we have been designated a ‘professional materials, parts, and equipment vendor.’ We also qualified for government support and investment under the ‘2020 BIG3 Industry SME Support Program’. Q. Any other comments? While our analog IP development efforts have focused on PMU (Power Management Unit) IP until now, we intend to expand into mobile interfaces (MIPI) and high-speed interface IP, such as Ethernet. We also plan to expand our IP lineup to include the 12 inch 28nm CMOs process down to the 5nm FinFET process, establishing leadership among SAFE IP partners. With more domestic IP firms developing in-house IP through the ‘SAFE’ program like Qualitas Semiconductor and TechwidU have done, the competitiveness of the Korean system semiconductor market will inevitably improve. Samsung remains committed to close collaboration with partners and fabless customers to establish a ‘virtuous cycle’ ecosystem in the Korean system semiconductor industry.

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