ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. Headquartered in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, ASML employs more than 14,000 people.
To retain our competitive position, we have to continually develop new systems that break new ground. So we devote a significant portion of our financial resources to research and development, and expect to continue to do so. We have set up sophisticated development centers in the Netherlands, the United States and Taiwan.
In 2011, we spent 590 millions euros on research and development. We continued to focus on three core programs: immersion, double patterning and extreme ultraviolet lithography. Compared with other European companies with more than 5,000 employees, we were the second largest R&D investor per employee in 2010 (see the section 'Enabling innovation' in the chapter 'Sustainability strategy and management'). We were also included in the Thomson Reuters 2011 Top 100 Global Innovators list.
In addition, ASML is involved in national and international innovation initiatives e.g. ENIAC, Marie Curie, MicroNed, NanoNext and Xtreme Motion.
Innovation is crucial to our business success. To make sure we can continue developing new technologies, we have adopted the concept of ‘open innovation’. This is based on cooperation and sharing. Rather than keeping new findings to ourselves, we and our partners share our findings with each other. This way we can each pursue our own agendas faster, and with better results.
Innovation is coordinated and partly done internally by the Research department, which has grown over the last six years from fewer than 10 people to 55. Implementing the innovation into products is done in the development organization where there are more than 2,500 people working.
As well as conducting research in our own research and development centers, we are involved in a number of partnerships with universities, institutions and other companies around the world. In the Netherlands, we are working with the technical universities of Eindhoven, Delft and Twente, research institutes FOM and TNO, and Dutch consumer electronics maker Philips. One of the topics we are focusing on is improving extreme ultraviolet lithography techniques. In Russia, we are working with the Institute for Spectroscopy Russian Academy of Sciences (ISAN) on measurement technologies relevant to our extreme ultraviolet lithography. In China, we are collaborating with Tsinghua University on ways to improve micro electro-mechanical systems, which are used in applications such as airbags, insulin pumps for diabetics, and in our chip- making machines.
We also closely collaborate with our suppliers and increasingly expect them to take on their share of innovation in the semiconductor equipment industry (see chapter ‘Sustainable value chain’).
Our work with universities and institutions can take several forms, for example having students help us resolve issues in our production process, or co-financing long-term research programs. We believe strengthening technological know-how in regions where we operate, and elsewhere, serves the interests of both our company and society.
In 2011, we made sure a group of researchers at the Dutch FOM institute could continue their work into aspects of extreme ultraviolet technology by supporting their move to the University of Twente. This allowed them to carry on working together to build on their previous achievements. Our support of research into immersion, a technique to improve the effectiveness of lenses during the lithography process by adding water between the lens and the wafer, has led to a significant increase in the imaging capability of our litho machines, meaning they produce more useful chips per wafer.
One example of our close links to the academic world is the appointment of our Head of Research, Jos Benschop, as Professor of Industrial Physics at the University of Twente. He will promote cooperation between education and private enterprise for a period of five years. He will also focus on research into nano patterning.
We also helped strengthen the region’s high-tech credentials by supporting the establishment of the regional headquarters of FME, a prestigious network of Dutch high-tech companies, in nearby Eindhoven.
The Dutch government asked us for advice on implementing a new R&D policy that offers financial perks – through tax breaks –in return for investment in R&D. After consulting our peers, research institutes and universities, we made several suggestions on how best to do this. We also advised the government on ways to attract top people from abroad to the Dutch technology sector, for instance by making it easier to get a work permit.