Intel's R&D Pipeline
A conversation with Sunlin Chou, discussing the history of research at Intel. Sunlin Chou, who retired in May of 2005, ran the Technology side of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group. Learn how Intel systematically turned research into gold with the approach they developed called the "pipeline." At the core of Sunlin's values is the belief that all problems should be dealt with systematically and this is exactly how he dealt with the issue of reviving Intel's prowess after the 1985 debacle. Sunlin's role in this was to develop a new business model for research and development. While many people were looking for an outside solution, like consortia; Sunlin was looking inside to see how the process could be streamlined. Most knew the model wasn't working well. Research often never led anywhere for the companies that funded it (Xerox Parc being the best example). It was a money sink, because few innovations ever made it over to the business side of an organization. Yet few did anything about it. Sunlin looked at these problems and saw opportunity.
Sunlin's most important contribution is his R&D Pipeline model, where he applied the first systematic approach to the whole development cycle. Central to his method was a strong understanding of Moore's Law and how it impacted product cycles. It led to his decision to set technical direction based on its relentless progression. This led to node planning. What came next was truly innovative. First, he covered the horizontal time line with a flow model that started with the research infrastructure outside Intel; then feeding it inside to research; then to path finding, on to development; and finally to manufacturing - all synchronized to the nodal clock. To do this he had to create a copy-exactly infrastructure for R&D that had never existed. Plus, everything had to be tightly coupled at the hand-off points, which is where most fail. This was done with exacting business processes. Second, he also covered the vertical technology line, integrating the test, assembly, and process roadmaps into a single cohesive strategy/roadmap. It doesn't get more systematic than this. The result was that Intel was able to shift into high gear, running on a 24 month nodal clock.