Soitec

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Soitec Silicon
Type Société Anonyme – SA (French public limited company)
Founded 1992 (1992)
Founder(s) André-Jacques Auberton Hervé & Jean-Michel Lamure
Headquarters Bernin (Isère)
Products
  • SOI products
  • Layer transfer solutions
  • Concentrator photovoltaic systems
Revenue €262.9 million (2012-2013)
Employees 1,500 (end of March 2013)
Divisions Soitec Specialty Electronics, and Soitec Solar
Website soitec.com

Soitec is a France-based international industrial company specialized in generating and manufacturing high performance semiconductor materials. The company operates on three main markets: electronics, solar energy and lighting. Soitec is listed on the Paris stock exchange (Euronext Compartment B).

History[edit]

Soitec was founded in 1992 near Grenoble in France by two researchers from CEA-Leti, an institute for micro- and nanotechnologies research created by the French Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA). The pair developed Smart Cut™ technology to industrialize Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI) wafers, and built their first production unit in Bernin, in the Isère department of France. By applying this technology to materials other than silicon and developing further processes, Soitec has built up expertise in the field of semiconductor materials. Soitec’s offering initially targeted the electronics market. Then, at the end of the 2000s, Soitec launched into the solar energy and lighting markets, exploiting new openings for its materials and technologies. The company currently has production units in France and the United States, and is present (though R&D centers, sales offices, etc.) in Europe (Germany and Italy), the United States (Arizona, California and Massachusetts), Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan) and South Africa.

Key dates[edit]

  • 1992: Creation of Soitec by researchers from CEA-Leti in Grenoble, France.
  • 1997: Shift to mass production after the signature of a Smart Cut™ technology licensing agreement with Shin Etsu Handotai (SEH).
  • 1999: Construction of the first production site in Bernin (Bernin 1), and launch of Soitec’s initial public offering.
  • 2002: Inauguration of Bernin 2, a manufacturing unit dedicated to 300-mm diameter wafers.
  • 2003: Acquisition of Picogiga International, a company specializing in technologies for III-V composite materials, and the first foray into materials other than SOI.
  • 2006: Acquisition of Tracit Technologies, a company specializing in molecular adhesion and mechanical and chemical thinning processes, enabling diversification into new applications for Smart Cut™ technology.
  • 2008: Opening of a production unit in Asia, in Singapore. In 2012, this unit housed the SOI wafer recycling business. In 2013, production stopped at the unit to prepare for the company’s new Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator (FD-SOI) technology.
  • 2009: Acquisition of Concentrix Solar, a German supplier of concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) systems: Soitec launched into the solar energy market. Today, its Fribourg site in Germany houses the company’s CPV marketing and R&D operations.
  • 2011: Acquisition of Altatech Semiconductor, a company specialized in developing equipment for producing semiconductors.
  • 2012: Opening of a production unit for CPV modules in San Diego, California, with a capacity of 140 MW, upgradeable to 280 MW.
  • 2013: Signature of a Smart Cut™ licensing agreement with Sumitomo Electric to develop the gallium nitride (GaN) wafer market for LED lighting applications. Signature of another agreement, with GT Advanced Technologies, to develop and commercialize equipment for producing wafers for manufacturing LEDs and other industrial applications.

Operations[edit]

Soitec operates on three markets: electronics, solar energy and lighting.

Electronics[edit]

Historically, Soitec has marketed Silicon On Insulator (SOI) as a high performance material for manufacturing electronic chips for computers, game consoles and servers, as well as the automotive industry. With the explosion of mobile products (tablets, smartphones, etc.) on the consumer electronics market, Soitec has also developed new materials for radio-frequency components, multimedia processors, etc.

Solar energy[edit]

Soitec manufacturers and supplies Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) systems. Its main market is large-scale solar power plants located in regions with strong direct sunlight. Soitec has installed CPV power plants or demonstration systems in 18 countries, representing a total power output of nearly 14 MW. Its main installations are located in South Africa and the United States. In France, as part of the second call for tender for large-scale solar power plants launched by the French Energy Regulation Commission (CRE), Soitec and Alstom signed a cooperation agreement[1] in July 2013 to combine their expertise in concentrator photovoltaic technology on the one hand, and delivering turnkey power plants and providing integrated solutions and equipment and power generation on the other.

Lighting[edit]

Soitec operates upstream and downstream of the LED value chain. Upstream, the company uses its expertise in semiconductor materials to develop substrates made from gallium nitride (GaN), the base material used in LEDs. Its technologies have been licensed through several agreements, notably with Sumitomo and GT Advanced Technologies. Downstream, Soitec is developing a range of industrial partnerships to commercialize new professional lighting solutions (urban, office and transport infrastructure lighting). The company was awarded one lot in a call for tender launched in 2012 by France’s RATP to replace the lighting in the Paris Metro underground and RER urban train network.

Technologies[edit]

Soitec is developing numerous technologies for its different sectors of activity.

Smart Cut™[edit]

Developed by CEA-Leti in collaboration with Soitec,[2] this technology has been patented by researcher Michel Bruel.[3] It makes possible the transfer of a thin layer of monocristalline material from a donor substrate to another by combining ion implantation and bonding by molecular adhesion. Soitec uses Smart Cut™ technology to mass-produce SOI wafers. Compared with classic bulk silicon, SOI enables a significant reduction in energy leakage in the substrate, and improves the performance of the circuit in which it is used.

Smart Stacking™[edit]

This technology involves the transfer of partially or fully processed wafers onto other wafers. It can be adapted to wafer diameters of 150 mm to 300 mm and is compatible with a wide variety of substrates, such as silicon, glass and sapphire. Smart Stacking™ technology is used for back-side illuminated image sensors, where it improves sensitivity and enables a smaller pixel size, as well as in smartphone radio-frequency circuits. It also opens new doors to 3D integration.

Epitaxy[edit]

Soitec has epitaxy expertise in III-IV materials across the following fields: molecular beam epitaxy, metal organic vapor phase epitaxy deposition and hydride vapor phase epitaxy. The company manufactures wafers of gallium arsenide (GaAs) and gallium nitride (GaN) for developing and manufacturing compound semiconductor systems. These materials are used in Wi-Fi and high-frequency electronic devices (mobile telecommunications, infrastructure networks, satellite communications, fiber optic networks and radar detection), as well as in energy management and optoelectronic systems, such as LEDs.

Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) technology[edit]

Concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) in Germany. It is based on the use of modules comprising two glass plates held together by a metallic frame. The light arriving on the top plate is concentrated by a factor of 500, thanks to optic lenses made from silicon on glass (known as Fresnel lenses). After concentration, it is converted into electricity by multi-junction solar cells mounted on the bottom plate. Soitec modules achieve 31.8 percent efficiency. The company is carrying out R&D work to develop its own cells. Together with Fraunhofer ISE, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin, Soitec recently announced a world record in the laboratory, with cells achieving 44.7 percent efficiency.[4] Soitec has also used its CPV technology to develop Plug&Sun™ mini-trackers, capable of producing solar electricity autonomously in areas that are isolated or poorly connected to electricity grids.

Governance[edit]

Solitec’s board of directors comprises 10 executive members and an observer:

  • André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Soitec co-founder and CEO
  • Paul Boudre, Chief Operating Officer
  • Douglas Dunn, Director
  • Fumisato Hirose, Director
  • Joël Karecki, Director
  • Didier Lamouche, Director
  • Christian Lucas, Director
  • Joseph Martin, Director
  • Patrick Murray, Director
  • Annick Pascal, Director
  • Sébastien Blot, Observer

The executive team comprises six members:

  • André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Chairman and CEO
  • Paul Boudre, Chief Operating Officer
  • Gaetan Borgers, Executive Vice President of the Solar Energy Division
  • Olivier Brice, Chief Financial Officer
  • Corinne Margot, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Corporate Communications
  • Francis Taroni, Senior Vice President of Industrial Operations

Financial data[5][edit]

  • 2012-2013 revenues: €262.9 million
  • 2012-2013 net loss: - €209.5 million
  • 2012-2013 gross profit: - €15.6 million

Capital increases[edit]

Soitec has carried out two capital increases:

  • The first in July 2011 to finance investments, especially for developing its solar energy and LED businesses.
  • The second in July 2013 to contribute to the refinancing of bonds convertible and/or exchangeable into new or existing shares (“OCEANEs”) due in 2014 and strengthen the company’s financial structure. In addition, Soitec opened a further bond issue in September 2013.

Distinctions[edit]

  • March 2006: Soitec was awarded the “Prix de l’Audace Créatrice 2006” (“creative audacity” award) by the French government “in recognition of its growth, innovation and ability to create jobs.”[6]
  • June 2007: 8th INSEAD Trophies: André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec CEO, received the “Innovative Entrepreneur” prize.[7]
  • December 2010: French “Entreprises & Environnement” Award: Soitec is commended in the “Innovation in Ecotechnology” category.[8]
  • September 2012: Soitec’s Hansjörg Lerchenmüller and Fraunhofer ISE’s Andreas Bett received the German Environmental Prize for their work in concentrating photovoltaic technology.[9]

Sustainable development and CSR action[edit]

Sunidarity[edit]

In 2011, Soitec unveiled the Sunidarity initiative. A call for tender was launched among NGOS, foundations and associations to identify local humanitarian development projects involving the use of solar electricity. The awarded projects were provided with Plug&Sun™ equipment. Four projects were selected in 2012 for electrification work in Haiti, Lebanon, Madagascar and Palestine.

Ethical code[edit]

Since 2012, Soitec has adopted a code of conduct, which applies to all its employees in all the countries in which the group operates. This code also governs Soitec’s relations with shareholders, clients and suppliers, as well as with public bodies, administrations, etc.

High Tech U[edit]

In 2007, Soitec introduced the High Tech U[10] project, an initiative of the SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) Foundation, an international association of semiconductor manufacturers that develops campaigns to raise young people’s awareness of careers in the sciences. Ten discovery and observation days were designed in partnership with Grenoble Institute of Technology (Grenoble INP) and ST Microelectronics.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alstom attacks solar CPV, Soitec aims to benefit" Greenunivers.com, July 24, 2013
  2. ^ "Des ions et des hommes" (Ions and humans), Leti website, March 29, 2013
  3. ^ Patent n°US5374564
  4. ^ "Une cellule solaire conçue avec Soitec établit un ‘record mondial’ d’efficacité" (A solar cell designed with Soitec achieves a “world record” for efficiency) Les Echos September 24, 2010
  5. ^ Soitec annual report 2012-2013
  6. ^ Official Fimalac website
  7. ^ Insead press release, July 27
  8. ^ Official Results on Ademe website
  9. ^ DBU press release
  10. ^ Article dated February 7, 2013, on the Grenoble Institute of Technology website