Top 10 semiconductor R&D spenders in 2017

Intel far surpasses others with R&D spending of USD 13.1 billion in 2017 and accounts for 36% of expenditures among top R&D spenders, says IC Insights.
The ten largest semiconductor R&D spenders increased their collective expenditures to USD 35.9 billion in 2017, an increase of 6% compared to USD 34.0 billion in 2016. Intel continued to far exceed all other semiconductor companies with R&D spending that reached USD 13.1 billion. In addition to representing 21.2% of its semiconductor sales last year, Intel’s R&D spending accounted for 36% of the top 10 R&D spending and about 22% of total worldwide semiconductor R&D expenditures of USD 58.9 billion in 2017, according to the 2018 edition of The McClean Report that was released in January 2018. Figure 1 shows IC Insights’ ranking of the top semiconductor R&D spenders, including both semiconductor manufacturers and fabless suppliers.

Top 10 Semiconductor R&D spenders
(companies with ≥ $1B in spending)

2017 Rank Company R&D Exp R&D/Sales % 17/16 % change in R&D
1 Intel 13,098 21.2% 3%
2 Qualcomm 3,450 20.2% -4%
3 Broadcom* 3,423 19.2% 4%
4 Samsung 3,415 5.2% 19%
5 Toshiba 2,670 20.0% -7%
6 TSMC 2,656 8.3% 20%
7 MediaTek* 1,881 24.0% 9%
8 MIcron 1,802 7.5% 8%
9 Nvidia 1,79[:7 19.1% 23%
10 SK Hynix 1,729 6.5% 14%
Top 10 Total 35,921 13.0% 6%

*sales and R&D spending of acquired semiconductor supplier are included

Intel’s R&D expenditures increased just 3% in 2017, below its 8% average annual growth rate since 2001, according to the new report. Still, Intel’s R&D spending exceeded the combined R&D spending of the next four companies—Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung, and Toshiba—listed in the ranking.

Underscoring the growing cost of developing new IC technologies, Intel’s R&D-to-sales ratio has climbed significantly over the past 20 years. In 2017, Intel’s R&D spending as a percent of sales was 21.2%, down from an all-time high of 24.0% in 2015. In 2010, the ratio was 16.4%, 14.5% in 2005, 16.0% in 2000, and just 9.3% in 1995.

Qualcomm—the industry’s largest fabless IC supplier—was again ranked as second-largest R&D spender, a position it first achieved in 2012. Qualcomm’s semiconductor-related R&D spending was down 4% in 2017, after a 7% drop in 2016, and it was close to being passed up by third place Broadcom and fourth placed Samsung, whose R&D spending increased 4% and 19%, respectively.

Despite increasing its R&D expenditures by 19% in 2017, Samsung had the lowest investment-intensity level among the top-10 R&D spenders with research and development funding at 5.2% of sales last year. Samsung’s 49% increase in semiconductor revenue in 2017 (driven by strong growth in DRAM and NAND flash memory) lowered its R&D as a percent of sales ratio from 6.5% in 2016. Micron Technology’s revenues surged 77% in 2017, but its research and development expenditures grew 8%, resulting in an R&D/sales ratio of 7.5% compared to 12.5% in 2016. Similarly, SK Hynix’s sales climbed 79% in 2017, while its research and development spending increased 14% in the year, which resulted in an R&D/sakes ratio of 6.5% versus 10.2% in 2016.

Fifth-ranked Toshiba and sixth-ranked Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) each allocated about the same amount for R&D spending in 2017. Toshiba’s R&D spending was down 7% while TSMC had one of the largest increases in R&D spending among the top 10 companies shown in the figure. TSMC’s R&D expenditures grew by 20% as the foundry raced rivals Samsung and GlobalFoundries in launching new process technologies, while its sales rose 9% to USD 32.2 billion in the year.

Rounding out the top-10 list were MediaTek, Micron, Nvidia, which moved from 11th place in 2016 to 9th position to displace NXP in the 2017 ranking, and SK Hynix. Collectively, the top-10 R&D spenders increased their outlays by 6% in 2017, two points more than the 4% R&D increase for the entire semiconductor industry. Combined R&D spending by the top 10 exceeded total spending by the rest of the semiconductor companies (USD 35.9 billion versus USD 23.0 billion) in 2017.

A total of 18 semiconductor suppliers allocated more than more than USD 1.0 billion for R&D spending 2017. The other eight manufacturers were NXP, TI ST, AMD, Renesas, Sony, Analog Devices, and GlobalFoundries.

Source: Evertiq
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