Innovation and product development is central to the future of the AZ business. The industries we service are fast moving and our customers’ processes are technically demanding. Although our products represent only a small fraction of customers’ overall production cost, they are vital to enable their manufacturing processes. Our customers are dependent on us to develop new materials that enable them to run new processes or existing processes at lower cost. Moore’s Law is often seen as a measure of success of the equipment manufacturers, most notably exposure tools, but historically materials innovation has made a significant contribution too. It is therefore of critical importance that our R&D stays at the forefront of technology and generates a pipeline of new and innovative products that themselves will generate revenue.
AZ has a successful track record of introducing new products. The percentage of sales from new products introduced in the last three years alone has steadily increased from a small percentage in 2003 (before AZ became a standalone company), to now almost a quarter of our total revenue. Maintaining this flow of new products requires a substantial investment in R&D. To be effective, this R&D expenditure needs to be made in close collaboration with our customers and anticipate the future direction of technologies. Early involvement of customers in the development process and close cooperation with their R&D teams underpins our development efforts. Due to our market leading position and reputation, we frequently see significant customer demand for joint R&D work, which gives us an invaluable early insight to the products that customers will be asking for a few years ahead.
We follow a disciplined marketing-driven R&D process, guided by an analysis of our R&D efforts. This is based on market size, market share potential and competitive lead, product life cycle and expected contribution margin.
Read about Microchips and Flat Panel Display production process
CASE STUDIES DEMONSTRATING OUR "PARTNERS IN INNOVATION" IN ACTION
AN INTEGRATED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PLATFORM
AZ’s core competency is in the application of lithographic technology and silicon chemistry, know-how that is founded at the intersection of three major disciplines: chemistry, physics, and the engineering for IC and FPD manufacturing.
Interactive R&D process
Our development process is based on the iterative optimisation of a product, that is to say a product which is honed through careful and repeated techniques, adjusted to optimise product performance.
One way to characterise our innovation pipeline is to look at whether products are new or extensions of our existing product lines and whether they are going to new or existing customers.
Discoveries that are relevant to our business are often made by universities, outside research groups and research institutions.