With technological innovations happening at a breakneck pace, it is easy to lose sight of the building blocks behind these advancements – semiconductors. While they may not come in the spotlight as often, semiconductor companies play a pivotal role in driving technology revolutions from 5G to the metaverse.
Once such semiconductor player, which hails from France, is Soitec. It is known to have the largest industrial manufacturing site for SOI (Silicon on insulator) wafers (200 mm to 300 mm) in the world that includes 4,500 m² of cleanrooms spread out between its three factories in France. The French SOI wafer maker is banking on its ‘Smart Cut’ technology to get 10x as many wafers from a SiC (silicon carbide) boule compared to what’s currently possible.
Centrly, through its bespoke network graph platform, produced a relationship map for Soitec to understand its positioning in the semiconductor ecosystem.
Growth through partnerships: alliances with large industry players
Notably, Soitec is gaining steam in the space by mustering supplier relationships with big players such as Qualcomm, GlobalFoundries and Samsung Foundry.
Centrly’s network graph reveals a rather intriguing pattern – the ensuing tripartite between Soitec, Qualcomm and GlobalFoundries:
The graph also shows how Soitec is harnessing the power of synergies as reflected by its recent alliance with CEA, GlobalFoundries and STMicroelectronics. The 4 leading semiconductor players, announced a collaboration in April 2022, where they are coming together to set the tone for the (fully depleted silicon-on-insulator) technology.
Soitec also has an opportunity to penetrate further in the Chinese market by strengthening ties with the likes of China Mobile, Huawei, and the The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute Company Limited (ASTRI) as they’re all associated with the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center that in 2019.
Growth through acquisitions: foraying into the high-growth technology segments
The semiconductor industry is no stranger to consolidations and inorganic growth. Soitec’s M&A activity before 2019 was back in 2009 when it took over Concentrix Solar to enter the then fast-growing solar industry. Post the deal, the microelectronics substrate supplier established itself as a concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) solar panels’ maker and it developed several CPV solar projects across the globe. However, in May 2015, Soitec decided to divest its solar system business in a bid to re-focus on its core semiconductor activities.
Over the last 3 years, Soitec has made two acquisitions – EpiGaN and NOVASiC respectively. EpiGaN was snapped up in 2019 for €30M plus additional fees to bolster Soitec with a GaN (Gallium Nitride) value proposition across the burgeoning 5G, power and sensor market segments. On the other hand, NOVASiC, which specializes in polishing and reclaiming wafers on SiC, was acquired in 2021 to solidify Soitec’s positioning on the automotive and industrial markets.
Soitec’s pursuit of GaN and SiC excellence doesn’t come as a surprise given the traction witnessed among these new wide-bandgap semiconductors and the expected growth of these markets. As per Yole’s Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor on SiC and GaN applications, the SiC device market revenue is expected to exceed $3 billion by 2025 while the the power GaN business and the GaN RF device market are projected to reach beyond $680 million and $2 billion, respectively, by 2025. The key money-spinner for SiC is the EV/HEV market wherein SiC could prove to be a game-changer on the back of its prowess in managing batteries by blocking high voltages. The advent of 5G and deployment of higher frequencies is pushing OEMs to seek new antenna technology platforms that have larger bandwidth, higher efficiency, and optimal thermal management. GaN has caught the attention of OEMs owing to its high-frequency operation and efficiencies.
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