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Semiconductor Research Corporation: A Case Study in Cooperative Innovation Partnerships


In the study of innovation institutions, it is important to consider how different institutional models can affect a research organization in conducting or funding successful work. As an industry collaborative, Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) provides an example of a privately funded institution that leverages the inputs of several member companies, along with federal funding, to accomplish innovation in its mission area. SRC has several component programs, all attempting to find innovative solutions to semiconductor problems, but on different time scales, and in different technology areas. But how does SRC use its resources to ensure these goals? Through data gathered from semi-structured qualitative interviews and SRC documentation, this paper addresses that question. SRC has found a way to leverage industry money to motivate and develop a robust field of university research for over 30 years. SRC uses several mechanisms for maintaining an application focused, member-centered decision process, institutional flexibility, and strong ties between industry contributors and university researchers. SRC has continued to keep its members satisfied by training thousands of graduate students for employment in their member companies, by focusing on precompetitive research that addresses industry requirements, and doing so in a manner that operates leanly, with low overhead to its funders. Given these successes, we identify aspects of SRC operations, such as a focus on its member company needs, frequent interactions between funders and researchers, flexible funding mechanisms, and focus on workforce development, that may be diffusible to innovation institutions, including federal research efforts.

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Fig. 1


  1. Dynamic Random-Access Memory, which supplies memory to electronic devices.

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  7. The types of leveraged funding are: “directed”—funds from a non-industry sponsor are transferred to and managed by SRC; “collaborative”—funding by a third party, usually a government funding agency, that is invested jointly with SRC but that is transferred directly to the university; and “influenced”—funding by a third party that is invested in SRC-relevant research based on input from SRC.


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The authors would like to thank the Doris Duke Charitable Trust for making this research possible. Additionally, the project would not have been possible without the willing participation and access granted by SRC staff, industry members, SRC-funded researchers, and alumni. Also, thank you to Patricia McLaughlin for review and editing help on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nathaniel Logar.

Appendix: List of Interviewees

Appendix: List of Interviewees

Larry Sumney, SRC President and CEO

Steven J. Hillenius, SRC Executive Vice-President

Celia Merzbacher, SRC Vice President, Innovative Partnerships

Elizabeth Weitzman, SRC Executive Vice-President and Executive Director, FCRP

Jeffrey Walser, NRI Director

Ralph Cavin, SRC Chief Scientist

James Hutchby, SRC Senior Scientist

Daniel Herr, SRC Director, Nanomanufacturing Science

William Joyner, SRC Director, Computer Aided Design and Test

Robert Esterveldt, Harvard University, Professor of Physics

Charles Sodini, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Electrical Engineering

Walden Rhines - Mentor Graphics, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board

Wilbert Van den Howk – Novellus, Former Executive Vice President and Technology Officer

Allen Bowling, TI, Fellow and Manager of Research & Consortia, Analog Technology Development

Sandy Aivolotis, Nexans, Senior Vice President, Operations, Technology and Business Development

David Kyser, Applied Materials, Senior Director

Derek Martin, Agilent Technologies, Digital ASIC Operating Manager

David Newmark, Advanced Micro Designs, Design Fellow

Paul Besser, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Fellow

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Logar, N., Anadon, L.D. & Narayanamurti, V. Semiconductor Research Corporation: A Case Study in Cooperative Innovation Partnerships. Minerva 52, 237–261 (2014).

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  • Technology policy
  • Innovation
  • Energy
  • Semiconductors
  • Institutions