When I consider the benefits and value of industry associations in the semiconductor industry, I think of a rough analogy to homeowner associations (HOAs). While an imperfect analogy since HOAs are almost always mandatory, their value is undisputed as they advocate for the benefit of homeowners and sometimes act as an intermediary to resolve homeowner disputes. They protect and enhance the value of the properties for the benefit of all homeowners and present a united front for homeowners against threats that could potentially decrease homeowner value.
Similarly, semiconductor industry associations are advocates for the industry and their member companies. Each offers distinct value, some with a broad charter, others with a more narrowly focused mission. All told, they represent equally the interests of the semiconductor industry’s design, manufacturing, and supply chain throughout the global electronics industry.
Industry associations offer a combination of tangible and intangible benefits that can make it difficult to measure and communicate member value. Tangible benefits such as discounts on events, reports, and other goods and services are easy to measure. It is the value of the intangible benefits that are more difficult to calculate. As a hypothetical example, assume an industry association represents the industry in opposing proposed legislation that could drastically reduce the size of the available market being served. This demonstrates that an intangible can deliver huge value that benefits all companies, large and small, that serve that market.
When considering the values that associations typically offer, I break them down by categories into professional and workforce development, advocacy, visibility and awareness, trends and tracking, standards, industry events and competitive advantage.
Industry associations offer professional development opportunities where like-minded professionals can network, make contacts, and grow professionally through educational programs, workshops, and even public speaking. All can be of great value to a company, opening doors for business development and making connections with talented experts looking for the next challenge.
Workforce development is an increasingly important area needed to address the global shortage of skilled technical workers. More than one million additional skilled workers will be needed in the semiconductor industry by 2030, predicts Deloitte, or more than 100,000 annually. Talent development and training programs are available through various industry associations, helping promote the attractiveness of the industry as a great place to build a career and make contributions to semiconductor electronics industry and the global economy.
Advocacy for policies that promote growth and reduce business risks include a wide variety of topics addressing taxes, trade, legislation, technology, environment, health, and safety (EHS) and the aforementioned workforce development.
Industry associations amplify a unified position for their members as opposed to individual companies trying to be heard. Rapidly evolving trade and export rules and restrictions are examples of how an industry voice benefits all players, big and small, by having a cohesive position that can be presented to policy makers. They also employ experts who can be counted on to clearly communicate how trade and export rules and restrictions affect member companies and, in some cases, offer advice and counsel.
Visibility and brand awareness for startups and small and emerging companies with limited market budgets and know-how can be raised when they become members. As part of the membership benefit program, some associations give marketing and public relations advice, draft news releases announcing the new member company or develop blog posts on the company. Most organizations have marketing groups that help promote member companies through social media.
Another benefit provided by many semiconductor industry associations is in standards development. The semiconductor industry is full of standards that would not exist without the combination of industry associations that provide a framework for standards development and ratification and volunteers who drive and develop the technical details that make up the standards. Most standards are developed by contributors from across the industry, an opportunity for a member company’s engineering group to participate with their peers and make a difference that benefits the industry.
Tracking industry trends and developing market research reports, forecasts and industry roadmaps is a valued benefit provided by many industry associations. CEOs, CFOs, market analysts and business development executives gain valuable insight from these reports helping them plan their strategies, product roadmaps, and budgeting and forecasting. Industry analysts also benefit from subscribing to these reports as important input to their own reports about industry performance.
Events bring together executives and staff, customers, venture capitalists, journalists, and analysts –– a compendium of who’s who in the industry. Member companies can participate in many ways to showcase their thought leadership, products, technologies, and brand. This could include everything from being a program speaker or keynote, to exhibiting products to even hosting the event or portions of it, affording a more personalized way to demonstrate industry leadership than is possible via a website or webinars.
Companies that belong to an industry association have an intrinsic competitive advantage over companies that do not belong to an association. The networking and potential for collaboration as well as the ability to help shape the industry culture and direction and work to reduce risks is amplified through participation in an association.
The semiconductor industry is in the spotlight today like it has not been for many years. The U.S. CHIPS Act and the EU Chips Act, global supply chain issues, talent shortages and changing export restrictions and rules are in the daily news cycle. These opportunities and risks are too large and complex for individual companies to tackle on their own. Industry associations step in to present a unified voice, positions and even programs that benefit industry as a whole.
Belonging to one or more industry associations should be a key component of all companies’ marketing and business strategies. By joining an industry association, companies and their executives demonstrate their commitment to enhancing the value of the industry as well as protecting it from threats. They become more connected to their ecosystem, including both industry peers, customers and suppliers through networking events, technical conferences, and high-level summits. Sales and business development groups often support belonging because events hosted present informal access to potential customers and partners and may even result in collaborations.
Industry associations are key to the ongoing success and growth of the semiconductor industry, from intangible benefits that benefit all industry participants to tangible benefits such as brand exposure and awareness and industry connections.