“Everything that is important to this world will be solved by semiconductor technology.” That was the claim of National Semiconductor (s NSM) CEO and Chairman Brian Halla at the EcoChip forum hosted at chipmaker Actel’s (s ACTL) Silicon Valley campus on Monday. It’s a tall order, of course, not least of all for an industry expecting to see its annual sales plummet by 5.6 percent to $246.7 billion in 2009 compared to 2008. For the fourth quarter alone, the Semiconductor Industry Association anticipates sales will drop 5.9 percent from the previous 3-month period.
But Halla sees the seemingly unfavorable set of circumstances — good profit margins, bad markets, and a “butt-ugly economy” — as something of a perfect storm that will allow the semiconductor industry to do for renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles what it did for consumer electronics: make them practical, affordable and profitable. Here’s how:
The Good: The big semiconductor companies are good at making money, Halla said. Good enough, anyway, that they have R&D budgets even for clean technology. These companies don’t need a government aid package (ahem, Big Three) to develop products that manage energy use and prolong battery life, although more funding for pre-competitive research in universities would be nice.
Read More about Can Semiconductors Save the World?