André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé and Jean-Michel Lamure, then engineers at Leti, the electronics and information technology lab of the CEA (French Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies) in Grenoble, establish Soitec to produce SOI (Silicon-on-Insulator) and industrialize the Smart Cut™ process invented at Leti by Michel Bruel in 1991.
Soitec’s potential becomes clear as early applications for SOI are developed in the lab and a pilot fabrication line is set up for the company’s Smart Cut (1996) technology. The company signs a strategic alliance with silicon-industry leader Shin Etsu Handotai (SEH) of Japan. The decision is made to break ground on the company’s first production unit in Bernin, near Grenoble, France.
Soitec launches an IPO on the Paris Stock Exchange’s (now Euronext Paris) Nouveau Marché (for fast-growing start-up companies) and cuts the ribbon on Bernin I, the world’s largest SOI production facility. The company’s annual production capacity gradually expands to 800,000 200-mm-and-under wafers. In the meantime, Soitec’s staff has grown from four to more than a hundred.
Soitec’s 300-mm wafer development efforts yield dividends as the company opens Bernin II, offering an annual production capacity of 720,000 wafers. The company’s revenue exceeds €100 million for the first time in its history.
Soitec acquires Picogiga International’s business, adding expertise in technologies for III–V composite materials to its product portfolio. The company then begins to use its Smart Cut technology on materials other than silicon. The first GaN (gallium nitride-on-insulator) substrate is just over the horizon and will be manufactured the following year.
Soitec opens Soitec Asia, a sales subsidiary in Tokyo. An additional office soon follows in Taiwan (2005). The company now employs more than 500 people.
The €200 million, five-year NanoSmart joint R&D project with CEA-Leti is underway, with the goal of developing new applications for Smart Cut technology. Soitec also acquires Tracit Technologies, which specializes in thin layer transfer technologies using molecular adhesion and mechanical and chemical thinning processes. The acquisition will bolster Soitec’s efforts to broaden its markets.
Amid rising SOI production volumes, Soitec now employs more than 1,000 people. Soitec CEO André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé is appointed Chairman of the SOI Industry Consortium, a group of around 30 industry leaders and research labs. The Consortium’s mission is to promote SOI worldwide.
Soitec begins producing SOI wafers in Asia. The company’s Pasir Ris, Singapore production unit offers 4,000 m² of clean rooms and will one day reach annual production capacity of one million 300-mm wafers.
Soitec acquires an 80% stake in Concentrix Solar, one of the world’s leading suppliers of concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems, and enters the growing solar-energy industry. The company also signs a solar-farm alliance with Johnson Controls Inc. The partners plan to build their first solar farms in the United States, South Africa, and in the Middle East.
Soitec acquires Altatech Semiconductor S.A., a company specialized in the development of highly efficient technologies and equipment.
There are more than 1.500 employees in about 10 countries. Soitec has reported total consolidated sales of 323 million euros in 2011-2012.