Jeff Marks, president of Lam Research Capital, shares his thoughts on Lam’s recent venture investment activities and how they might shape the future of science and semiconductor innovation.
Planning the next product innovations and ways that technology can be used in them is a high-priority at most companies. For Lam Research, this means constantly looking ahead to the future of semiconductors and considering what solutions our customers might need for their next-generation products. We’ve also made it a priority to support discoveries beyond the scope of our industry. With this in mind, we created Lam Research Capital (Lam Capital), Lam’s venture activity group that invests in innovative companies addressing some of today’s most challenging, high-impact business problems. This new entity formalizes our structure for investments in science and technology and gives these important strategic goals greater prominence and visibility.
Investing in the Future
With the many fascinating innovations in development across multiple fields today, we are excited about the potential we see to support those new capabilities. Lam Capital’s efforts provide us with visibility into market opportunities outside of our core semiconductor space. Specifically, we’re focused on the use of molecular profiling technologies in life sciences and areas such as machine vision and artificial intelligence in industrial automation. We are also looking for ways we can help advance the semiconductor ecosystem and extend the use of our core technologies.
This venture activity allows us to gain insight into where people are creating disruptive technologies or business models so that we can assess the future of those marketplaces. It also provides a way for us to gain that insight through investments rather than mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Guiding Through Experience
Lam Research has long been an enabling company relative to the semiconductor industry and technology innovation. As other industries transition into the micro- and nanoscale regimes, there’s an opportunity for us to aid in their innovation. Venture activity is one way we can start participating in those industries that may be able to leverage developments that have come out of the semiconductor space. Our objectives are to understand the capabilities of the companies in which we are investing, evaluate whether Lam can add value to their enterprise and establish a relationship to evaluate how they fit into a broader Lam strategy.
In our experience, startups are extremely well-versed in one or a few aspects of building their business, but may have gaps that experienced advisors can help fill. As a systems engineering company, Lam has expertise in many engineering and science disciplines. One of our core competencies is the ability to bring together different technologies to form a cohesive system. We also know how to scale business operations to help young organizations grow. For companies trying to develop sophisticated, multidisciplinary systems, much learning can be gained from working with Lam.
One area of investment focus for Lam Capital is life sciences because the instrumentation in that field involves several of the components that we use, including robotics, mechatronics data acquisition, and optical systems. They also have similar chemical processes. Although the specific chemistries are different, they integrate together with the instrumentation in a similar manner, and what they are accomplishing impacts how the instrumentation is designed. This connection between the chemistry and the instrumentation is very similar to the methodology Lam uses for whole equipment design.
We’ve also made investments in the industrial automation space. This important area is really the future of the factory and involves using artificial intelligence and machine vision to automate processes and make factories more flexible. Again, we see an opportunity to leverage Lam’s systems engineering experience in areas such as optics, algorithms, machine learning, and electronics.
In my leadership role with Lam Capital, I’m excited by the possibilities for this new entity. Most of my 28-year career has been in the semiconductor equipment industry, primarily in general management or technology development roles, and the past 18 years have been at Lam Research. During that time, I’ve witnessed the growth of the semiconductor industry in ways I couldn’t have imagined in the early days. The team we’ve put together at Lam Capital leverages the collective expertise of some of the top technologists and business leaders in the industry. Working together to identify companies with innovative technologies, we’re committed to offering the resources and guidance to help those companies thrive. To learn more about us, please visit LamResearchCapital.com.