Semiconductor investors should look to 5G, chiplets, and embedded FPGAs for the best return, as growth in traditional fields slows down and packaging becomes the next frontier in semiconductor design.
The data comes from Gartner’s market opportunity map for semiconductors, which plots out where the money will be made over the next five years. 5G offers the best growth, which isn’t very surprising given that the technology didn’t (officially) exist last year and is expected to be worth $22.2 billion by 2023. But everyone knows that 5G is the best thing at everything, so for interesting insights we have to step down a level.
The second-biggest growth is in chiplets – tiny bits of chips that can be combined into a single die. As process nodes descend into the realm of imagination the cost of manufacturing spirals. For core processing smaller is always better, but some parts of a chip work better at bigger geometries. Chiplets are manufactured separately, at different process nodes, so a combined semiconductor can use 5nm for the core, and lower-cost sizing for the rest of the chip, creating a more cost-effective product. Despite being (physically) tiny, chiplets are going to be huge: worth $32.3bn by 2023.
Embedded FPGAs are a more of a niche; even in 2023 they’ll only be worth $4.1bn, but that’s still more than double the 2018 addressable market. Updatable hardware, application-specific accelerators and heterogeneous computing in the data centre will be the growth drivers, not to mention the demands from 5G infrastructure. We reckon that demand will also lead to a skills shortage, as companies compete to recruit those with experience of the field, which will encourage the growing market for pre-tested blocks of intellectual property which can be dropped into an FPGA design.
Those aren’t the only fields worth investing in. AI semiconductors are a good bet, and embedded hardware security still offers a decent return, but to get the details you’ll have to read Market Opportunity Map: Semiconductor Chip Vendor Business and Technology Investments, Worldwide, which comes with pictures and everything.