CREE - IP LICENSING, INVESTMENTS, ACQUISITIONS

IP licensing, acquisitions, investments… did Cree find its path?

Extracted from: Power GaN 2017: Epitaxy, Devices, Applications, and Technology Trends report and RF GaN Market: Applications, Players, Technology, and Substrates 2018-2023 report from Yole Développement  

OUTLINES:

  • Without any doubt, Cree is focusing its activities on SiC for power electronics and GaN for RF electronics.
  • 2018 is the year of change for Cree. The company presented its strategy in February, during its Investors’ Day.
  • What is Cree’s strategy? Ensure a new source of revenues, expand its activities towards new sectors and more…

LYON, France – Mai 14, 2018: The wind of change is blowing on Cree, the leading compound semiconductor company. Several announcements since the beginning of the year including the supply agreement with Infineon Technologies, the licensing agreement with Nexperia, the acquisition of Infineon Technologies’ RF power business, are clearly highlighting the change. Without any doubt, Cree is focusing its activities on SiC for power electronics and GaN for RF electronics. But what exactly is behind these announcements, and the status of Cree’s patent portfolio? What is Cree’s strategy? Ensure a new source of revenues, expand its activities towards new sectors and more…

Knowmade and Yole Développement (Yole), both members of the Yole Group of Companies, have investigated and studied the WBG industry including SiC, GaN materials… for more than 15 years. Their aim is to identify and evaluate technical breakthroughs and market opportunities. Analysis of the supply chain with different business models and market positioning, identification of technical innovations and evaluation of IP portfolio are part of their day-to-day work. Specifically, the company Cree, with more than 6,000 employees worldwide, 17 global locations and more than 4,400 issued patents, has been intensively analyzed by both partners, Knowmade and Yole. Today, they provide you a brief overview of Cree’s story with key points to better understand its market positioning, and behind that, its strategy.

2018 is the year of change for Cree. The company presented its strategy in February, during its Investors’ Day. This leading company presented a major shift this year with 3 main axes:
  -  Build a powerhouse semiconductor company focused on SiC and GaN development Build a powerhouse semiconductor company focused on SiC and GaN development.
“The company expects the revenue of Wolfspeed (in charge of the SiC activities) related business to grow significantly and become the biggest segment of the company within the next five years…” explains Dr Hong Lin, Senior Technology & Market Analyst at Yole.
  -  Focus its LED activities on solutions with high-added value and especially address the mid-power market with the help of a Chinese partner.
  -  Fix and develop the lighting activity.Fix and develop the lighting activity.Fix and develop the lighting activity.Fix and develop the lighting activity.

In this dynamic context, Knowmade made detailed investigations on Cree’s IP portfolio and today reveals its status: “The current IP portfolio of Cree is mainly comprised of inventions related to LED and lighting technologies,” explains Dr. Nicolas Baron, CEO & Founder. “It represents about 75% of the issued U.S. and foreign patents.” According to Knowmade’s analysts, 40% of these patents relate to lighting systems whereas 35% of the portfolio deals with LED chips and packaging inventions."

Initially focused on high power LED solutions with its GaN-on-SiC technology, Cree expanded its activities. Therefore one year ago the company teamed up with San’an Optoelectronics (China). Together the companies created a joint venture, Cree Venture LED Company, to bring to market a broad portfolio of mid-power products dedicated to the fast-growing LED industry.
According to Cree, they are expecting modest growth as well as a gross margin expansion. From an analyst’s perspective, it is interesting to point out the link between the number of patent publications and the development of Cree’s activities and related revenues. In the case of Cree, it is especially the case within its LED & lighting activities.

“The current IP portfolio of Cree is mainly comprised of inventions related to LED & lighting technologies...” 
(Dr. Nicolas Baron, CEO & Founder, Knowmade)

In parallel, with the acquisition of Infineon Technologies’ RF GaN activities for €345 million, Cree affirmed its willingness to expand Wolfspeed’s activities, including SiC for power as well as GaN for RF. But what exactly is the status of the compound semiconductor business at Cree? According to Yole’s analysts, two major segments have been developed at Cree in this field, based on WBG technologies: SiC for power electronics applications, and GaN for RF applications. Let us stop and review GaN solutions at Cree:
In 2004, the company acquired Advanced Technology Materials (ATMI). With the acquisition of ATMI’s GaN and epitaxial business, Cree had direct access to GaN substrate and epitaxy capabilities. More significantly, the company added key GaN patent families that were filed in the 90s to its IP portfolio.

As of today, Cree’s GaN patent portfolio comprises more than 1,200 issued U.S. and foreign patents, including over 450 issued patents related to GaN RF and power electronics. “Cree’s GaN power electronics device patent portfolio available for licensing includes more than 50 inventions (patent families) protected by over 300 issued U.S. and foreign patents granted in Japan, Europe, Korea, China and Taiwan”, stated Dr. Baron from Knowmade. “According to the latest announcement from Cree, the licensing agreement with Nexperia should logically include these 50 patent families”… The patents for GaN power-management systems relate to various switching power devices of high breakdown voltage (e.g. U.S. patent No 8,174,089), diodes exhibiting low on-state forward voltage and reduced parasitic resistance (e.g. U.S. patents No 7,834,367; 8,432,012; 8,330,244), and trench-based normally-off semiconductor devices (e.g. U.S. patent No 7,985,986). IP landscape studies from Knowmade’s team are based on a powerful methodology including definition of the scope with key words, identification and selection of the patents and then a detailed process of evaluation and strategic analysis. These results are good examples of information provided by the IP analysts at Knowmade…

What is clear today is the intention of Cree to develop strongly its SiC power business and not to go deeper into the GaN power market, even if this industry is an attractive sector. Yole expects an impressive 79% CAGR between 2016 and 2022. According to the market research and strategy consulting company, the market should reach US$460 million by 2022 (1). The power GaN industry is driven today by numerous applications including power supply, LiDAR, wireless power and envelope tracking and more.

This year, after the agreement with Infineon Technologies, Cree announced a licensing agreement with Nexperia. Initially a business unit of NXP, Nexperia became an independent company beginning of 2017. Nexperia’s activities are focused on the development of GaN solutions for power electronics applications. In this context, the licensing agreement between Cree and Nexperia should soon be profitable for both partners.

This analysis, and more, are some of the technology, market and IP reports published by Yole Group of Companies all year long. Amongst these, Knowmade will provide up-to-date IP reports related to SiC for power electronics and GaN for RF Electronics. In parallel, Yole will release its annual SiC technology & market study in the next few weeks. Stay tuned on i-micronews.com.

Furthermore, analysts of Yole Group of Companies take part in a selection of key trade shows and conferences to present the latest results. Discover the 2018 agenda on i-micronews.com, Where to Meet Us section.

As an example, RISE Acreo and WBG Power Center, in collaboration with Yole Développement and Enterprise Europe Network, are pleased to announce the international workshop on applications of wide bandgap (WBG) power electronics, SCAPE on June 11&12 in Stockholm, Sweden. This year, the workshop is also supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, as well as the Interreg Baltic Sea Region project Green Power Electronics. Tutorials, networking, conferences and debates are part of the program. The Yole Group of Companies is deeply involved in SCAPE 2018 with 3 presentations and a debate on June 12. SiC/GaN: what is the latest news from the industry? Who is leading the SiC patent landscape? What is the impact of the automotive industry electrification on the WBG industry? … Yole Développement, Knowmade and System Plus Consulting offer you a relevant program at SCAPE 2018, to understand the current issues of the industry.

To get more information about the agenda and/or arrange a meeting with an expert, contact Leonor Martin, MarCom Assistant at Yole.


Acronyms:
SiC: Silicon Carbide
GaN: Gallium Nitride
RF: Radio Frequency
WBG : Wide Band Gap
IP: Intellectual Property
LED : Light Emitting Diode
RF : Radio Frequency
CAGR : Compound Annual Growth Rate

Source:
(1) Power GaN 2017: Epitaxy, Devices, Applications, and Technology Trends report, Yole Développement, 2017




Connect with us


About the RF GaN market & technology report:

About the Power GaN market & technology report:

Newsletter subscription

About Yole Développement