Hardware & Electronics

Semiconductor Innovation Short Circuits

The makers of those little chips which are part of every technological gadget we use hit a short circuit in their innovation activity, as the sector dropped 5% year-over-year for the first time since the global economic recession of 2008.

Semiconductors are the fundamental building blocks of all modern electronics. Smart phones, computers, tablets, mobile gadgets, video games, refrigerators, lights and every technological device we touch and use involve some form of semiconductors. That’s what makes the decline of this sector so perplexing. In the age of digital everything, are we on the verge of a digital decline?

Despite the overall global decline in innovation activity, there are many industry facts to be noted.

Asia is the undisputed leader in the space, with Samsung (S. Korea), LG Displays (S. Korea) and BOE Technology Group (China) heading the pack in terms of innovation. Samsung leads the group with 38% more innovation activity than its nearest competitor.

IBM (U.S.) and Toshiba KK (Japan) round out the top five innovators overall, while Germany's Osram Opto Semiconductors and Infineon Technologies put Europe on the map, taking the top two slots on that continent (although only #23 and #28 globally).

Semiconductor-related academic research follows the dropping trend, with a marked decline in recent activity. Similarly, Asia takes two of the top spots in leading semiconductor research institutions, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (first) and University of Tokyo (third). The Russian Academy of Sciences is sandwiched in the second spot.

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“At Applied Materials, we believe in the concept of open innovation. We collaborate globally with university research groups, research institutes, startups and the entire value chain, and also have early and deep engagements with our customers, so we can quickly identify and solve their high-value problems.”

Dr. Om Nalamasu Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Applied Materials

Patent Activity



Change from 2013
*Unique innovations may be represented in multiple subsectors.

Top 5 Companies

  • 1 Samsung 4036
  • 2 LG Display 2920
  • 3 BOE Technology Group 2300
  • 4 Toshiba 1483
  • 5 Taiwan Semiconductor 1388
  • 1 Osram Opto Semiconductors 533
  • 2 Infineon 490
  • 3 Stmicroelectronics 281
  • 4 Bosch 227
  • 5 Commissariat Energie Atomique 189
  • 1 IBM 1610
  • 2 Micron Technology 655
  • 3 Applied Materials 460
  • 4 Sandisk 313
  • 5 Freescale Semiconductor 302

(Patent Data as of March 2015) Total number of documents by region