Speeches

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation, at the Opening of Micron's Expanded Fabricaton Facility on Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Mr Sanjay Mehrotra
President and CEO of Micron Technology

Ladies and gentlemen


1. Thank you for inviting me to officiate this opening of Micron’s latest NAND flash memory fabrication facility in Singapore. 

a. I congratulate Micron on the completion of this new facility, which expands Micron’s Fab10 plant. 

b. This new facility took only 16 months to construct, extremely remarkable for a project of this scale and complexity. I was told that many innovative construction methods were used. 

i. For instance, instead of the usual bottom to top method, the basement floors were built from top to bottom, floor by floor, as the excavation was going on. This cut the construction time needed. 

ii. This method has been used in the construction of our underground MRT stations. But this is the first time that this method has been used to construct a fabrication plant in Singapore. 

c. So I commend the Micron Singapore team and your construction partners for taking bold steps to innovate to speed up the construction. 

2. This latest multi-billion dollar investment by Micron underscores the strategic vision of the Micron Technology leadership and the strong partnership with Singapore. 

Global demand for semiconductors in the longer-term remains strong

3. Let me first touch on the strategic vision of Micron Technology in innovating and positioning yourself to respond to the longer term challenges in technology and demand patterns. 

a. As we heard from Mr Mehrotra earlier, in the recent years, flash memory manufacturers have developed three-dimensional NAND flash memory structures, in which memory cells are stacked vertically in multiple layers. This achieves higher densities at a lower cost per bit.  This new facility is capable of producing 64-layer NAND now, and the industry is working towards even higher density in the years to come. 

b. The demand for NAND flash memory has increased significantly over the years. For example, NAND flash memory is used to produce solid state drives (SSD). These are used in smart phones, tablets and computers. Increasingly, more SSDs are also being deployed in data centers.  

4. More broadly, the global demand for semiconductors in the longer-term remains strong. 

a. No doubt the global semiconductor industry is experiencing headwinds this year, experiencing a sharper-than-expected downswing. This is due to global economic uncertainties and weaker demand from some end-markets. 

b. But these headwinds should be viewed in the context of the “semiconductor super cycle”. In the preceding few years, global demand grew by more than 35%. 

c. Recent forecasts suggest that global demand could return to modest growth in 2020 and to grow it at between 2-9%[1] per year in the subsequent few years. 

5. There are good reasons to believe that demand for semiconductor chips will continue to grow.

a. The consumer electronics market is expanding.  Beyond smart phones and tablets, the consumer demand for other smart devices ranging from TVs to wearables is growing. 

b. We are also seeing the rapid advancement and deployment of new innovative technologies. These include Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G, smart manufacturing and autonomous vehicles. Semiconductors are the fundamental building blocks for these technologies. The rapid deployment of these technologies will boost demand for semiconductor components.

6. The investment by Micron in expanding Fab10 reflects your confidence in the longer-term outlook of the semiconductor industry, and you are taking bold steps to respond to this. 

Singapore is well-positioned to meet this global demand

7. Micron’s multi-billion dollar investment here is also a signal of your continued confidence in Singapore’s long-term fundamentals and in our partnership over the years. 

8. Singapore is well-positioned to meet the rise in long-term global demand. 

a. Singapore’s semiconductor industry took root in 1968, when National Semiconductor set up an assembly and test facility along River Valley Road. In 1986, Singapore became the second nation in the world to enter the semiconductor foundry industry. Since then many leading semiconductor companies have invested in Singapore. 

b. Our semiconductor industry has seen through many business cycles. Each time, our companies weathered the downturn, took the opportunity to transform, and emerged stronger. 

c. Today, Singapore accounts for 11% of the global market share for semiconductors[2], and is home to more than 60 semiconductor companies. The semiconductor industry accounts for more than 7% of Singapore’s GDP, and it is one of the largest industries within our manufacturing sector.  

9. Micron has been a key partner in our semiconductor growth story. 

a. Micron established your presence in Singapore in 1998, through the acquisition of Texas Instruments’ memory business and assets. 

b. Since then, Micron has continued to expand your operations in Singapore. Over the years, Micron invested more than 15 billion US dollars in Singapore.  

c. I understand that Singapore accounts for the majority of Micron’s global NAND flash memory production. And Singapore has been designated Micron’s NAND Centre of Excellence. 

d. Beyond investing in new capacity, Micron has also continued to transform your operations here with new technologies. I am glad to know that Micron has expanded your R&D operations in Singapore, and I thank Mr Mehrotra for your announcement just now on the partnership with our two universities. 

e. Micron’s deepening of your presence in Singapore will add strength to the whole eco-system of semiconductor industry here. 

10. The global semiconductor industry is extremely competitive. To remain relevant as a semiconductor hub, we will need to go beyond the efforts of individual firms. Singapore will need to build on our strong foundations of good connectivity, a pro-business environment, and a skilled and adaptable workforce. 

a. We will need to continue to strengthen our semiconductor eco-system. This includes closer collaboration between semiconductor manufacturers and their suppliers, many of which are small medium enterprises. Companies like Micron work with an entire range of suppliers – from equipment vendors, to gas suppliers to precision welders for gas pipes. 

b. There is also potential for our semiconductor companies to work more closely with researchers in our universities and research institutes. 

i. The Government is investing 19 billion dollars over 5 years in our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plans. 

ii. One key RIE 2020 domain area is in advanced manufacturing.  I am therefore very happy to hear about the collaboration that Micron is having with our universities. 

11. More broadly, let me say that the strengthening of our semiconductor eco-system is part of the wider transformation of our electronics sector. 

a. We launched the Electronics Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in 2017 to set out how we can build the electronics industry for tomorrow. 

b. The transformation efforts are ongoing, driven by collaboration between government agencies, industry partners, unions and trade associations. 

12. While the global demand for semiconductors has weakened this year, we must continue to invest for the longer-term and strengthen our eco-system. This way, we will be ready to harness new opportunities when the global demand picks up.  

Ensuring good jobs for Singaporeans 

13. This brings me to my third point – we must ensure that the longer-term growth of the semiconductor industry in Singapore translates into more good jobs for our people. 

14. Our semiconductor industry employs around 35,000.

a. Micron alone has around 8,000 staff in Singapore, and is planning to raise this to 8,500 as the new fabrication facility comes online.  

b. But beyond the number of jobs in the industry, the nature of these jobs is equally important. In this regard, the jobs in the semiconductor industry has transformed significantly. 

i. Manual and repetitive tasks have been automated. For example, Micron recently developed an end-to-end solution to automate the entire process from when new wafers arrive from the warehouse to when the wafer lots are introduced into the production line.  

ii. In addition, with the Internet of Things, manufacturing activity and equipment readiness can now be remotely monitored.  

15. I am glad that Micron has upgraded your employees to take on these new higher-skilled roles. 

a. Vivian Howe is one good example. She joined Micron as a manufacturing technician. With the support of Micron, she upgraded herself to keep pace with the advancements in semiconductor manufacturing. Today she is a senior engineer in contamination control. She no longer needs to spend most of her time on the manufacturing floor. Instead, she can remotely monitor the cleanroom conditions on a real-time basis and make interventions remotely, if necessary. 

16. Beyond upgrading its employees to take on higher-skilled jobs, Micron also offers employment opportunities to mid-career workers from outside the industry.  

a. One example is Chen Geng. He was working in the shipping industry – a completely unrelated field – prior to joining Micron in 2017. After going through Micron’s in-house training programmes, Chen Geng is now working as a technologist, conducting equipment maintenance for diffusion modules. More recently, after 6 months of on-the-job training, he will now be operating a new equipment platform in the new facility. 

b. Micron also actively hires mid-career professionals and technicians under the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for the Wafer Fabrication Industry. Micron has brought in around 80 employees through this programme since its inception in 2016. 

c. The support of Micron, and other like-minded employers, is critical in providing opportunities for our workers to move into new jobs or sectors. This will enable them to pursue better prospects, with more opportunities for progression.  

17. For the semiconductor industry, we must also build a strong pipeline of talent with a keen interest in science and technology. 

a. The Micron Foundation promotes educational activities in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics). The foundation also works with our universities such as NUS and NTU to inspire learning and fund projects. 

b. The Government is working closely with companies to promote careers in the industry, and Micron is one of our active partners. I am pleased to know that Micron has been awarding more than 15 Singapore-Industry Scholarships annually over the past few years. I am particularly attached to this scholarship because I launched it when I was Education Minister. So I am very happy to hear that Micron is a strong partner. 

18. As a country with no natural resources, people are our most critical resource. I am glad that Micron is bringing the best out of your workers, and offering them good jobs. 

Conclusion

19. In conclusion, let me once again congratulate Micron on the opening of your new fabrication facility.

a. The opening today marks yet another milestone in the long-standing partnership between Micron and Singapore. 

b. This milestone is a good opportunity to reflect on the long-term global growth in demand for semiconductors, how Singapore is well-positioned to harness these growth opportunities, and how in doing so we can create more good jobs for our people, and strengthen our partnership with our partners from all over the world. Many of you are in this particular industry and are our strong partners. 

20. I wish Micron success ahead.


===


[1] Sources: Market insights reports from Gartner, International Data Corporation (IDC), IHS Markit

[2] EDB’s estimates using wafer capacity data.  Published on : 14 Aug 2019