As global energy consumption increases and awareness of global warming grows, new policies and regulations are emerging worldwide to promote energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such objectives are driving major advances in energy production systems (wind, solar), storage (batteries), transport (smart grid, HVDC) and new end uses such as electric vehicles (EV). Yet to interconnect these systems efficiently, power electronics devices will be ubiquitous. Therefore, it is now considered as one of the major enabling technologies for the transition to a more sustainable world.
Nowadays, silicon (Si) is the mainstream technology for power electronics devices. But this technology is facing physical limitations to achieve the higher power density, miniaturization, and energy conversion efficiency in many applications. Therefore, the power semiconductor industry is considering new semiconductor materials for the next generation of power electronics devices, such as the so-called wide bandgap semiconductors (WBG). In the last couple of decades, compound semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) emerged as the most promising candidates to enable significant efficiency improvements in a wide range of applications (renewables, power supplies, transportation, etc.).
Challenges for SiC and GaN technologies
The large-scale adoption of GaN and SiC power electronics devices implies overcoming certain challenges:
- Building a complete, resilient supply chain – from the bulk material, bare and epitaxial wafers to the power devices, modules and circuits.
- Ensuring the performance and reliability of power electronics devices in the critical application fields.
- Proving cost competitiveness with other solutions at system level.
Although industry acceptance has been growing significantly over the last decade, there is still a lot of room for improvement in all these key aspects of SiC and GaN technologies. Different development strategies are currently being adopted by GaN and SiC industrial players, either exploring a fabless model (GeneSiC, UnitedSiC, Microchip, Navitas, GaN Systems), a foundry model (X-Fab, Episil, YPT, TSMC) or a vertical integration model (ST, Wolfspeed, Rohm, onsemi, Infineon).
Such challenges establish a very high barrier to entry to emerging GaN and SiC power device markets for countries that started developing GaN and SiC technologies more recently. As a countermeasure, their governments are providing strong incentives for companies to invest heavily in these technologies. In such countries, with few or no industrial players in the market, it is very difficult to get a good picture and deep understanding of the emerging GaN and SiC ecosystems.
From the crystal growth of bulk and epitaxial materials to the manufacturing of power electronics devices, their packaging and interconnections in sub-systems such as inverters, KnowMade aims to answer the following questions:
- Who are the players actively engaged in the development of SiC and GaN technologies? Where are they positioned in the supply chain? What is the status of their technological development?
- Which applications are targeted? Which markets are players interested in? What is the technological roadmap? What are the strengths and weaknesses from an IP perspective?
- Among thousands of patents, which are the vital ones to my competitors?
- Which patents should I know about when conducting R&D activities or before releasing new products onto the market?
Our patent landscape analysis provides an overview of patent applicants and owners, including current market players as well as potential future market players, newcomers and those going under the radar. As such, our patent landscape reports provide a comprehensive picture of what the competitive landscape could look like across the whole supply chain over the next few years.
We carry out IP profiles which review the patent portfolio of a given player across the whole supply chain and provide valuable insights into its R&D and business strategies. Analyzing the patent portfolio can connect patents to products and identify the future products of your competitors.
We are able to identify a shortlist of key patents for a technology, a technical challenge or a specific application in the patent portfolio of your competitors. When focusing on a technological segment in the value chain, for instance SiC MOSFET or GaN HEMT, identifying key patents provides an understanding of how players aim to overcome the technical and cost barriers related to the technology (e.g., gate oxide reliability, normally-off operation). Key patents also refer to patents with a notable blocking potential for any competitors in a segment of the technology. If you are in the process of developing a technology, a technical review of key patents in the field can help you identify the major IP risks early, and avoid them. If you are about to launch a new product onto the market, KnowMade can conduct a freedom-to-operate (FTO) analysis to evaluate the IP risks for your company, as well as for your customers.
Our monitoring services allow you to keep a close eye on the power electronics competitive landscape, stay in the know regarding your competitors’ latest R&D activities and roadmap, get up-to-date data on patent activity (new patent applications, patents expired or abandoned, latest patent transfers and patent litigation), detect opportunities and risks early, find new partners and potential customers in your ecosystem, and identify and invest in key technologies.
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