ULVAC CEO Interview – Oxford Instruments plc.
The CEOs of both companies discuss their management philosophies for increasing corporate value.

Partners and friendly rivals; enabling sustainable growth through collaboration.

Oxford Instruments plc. (headquartered in England, UK), hereinafter Oxford Instruments) was founded in 1959 as a successful technology company spun off from the University of Oxford in the UK. The company supports its customers in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, enabling a greener, healthier, more connected, advanced society for all. The company offers a variety of advanced technology products ranging from research and development to manufacturing processes, quality control, and analysis, including cryogen-free dilution refrigerators and superconducting magnets for condensed matter physics research, elemental analysis systems for electron microscopes, laser and optical imaging systems, and deposition and etching systems using plasma technology for semiconductor fabrication processing at atomic level.

In 2019, ULVAC commenced the sale of Oxford Instruments’ plasma atomic layer deposition (ALD) systems for mass production solution for gallium nitride (GaN) power devices and also their next-generation atomic layer etching (ALE) system in Japan.
We spoke with Dr. Ian Barkshire online.

●Guest [Right]
Dr. Ian Barkshire, CEO, Oxford Instruments plc.
●Interviewer [Left]
Setsuo Iwashita, President and CEO, ULVAC, Inc.


    1. Growing markets to capture.
    2. Management Strategy, HORIZON
    3. Company culture for Sustainable Growth
    4. Conclusion

1. Growing markets to capture

Iwashita : Oxford Instruments (hereinafter referred to as “Oxford Instruments”) and ULVAC, Inc. started to build strategic business collaboration since 2019, and the team has achieved major advancement since then. Dr. Barkshire provided insights on how Oxford Instruments is rapidly growing and capturing business opportunities during this time of drastic change.

This interview was conducted online due to limitations of traveling by COVID-19, however I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to you. I am excited to hear your views on various issues today. We would like to know your views on how a company should be and how it can grow with the fast changes we face.

Barkshire : Thank you very much indeed, Iwashita-san. I would just like to say how pleased I am to be able to join this conference call with you today. It’s a great pleasure, especially given the progress our teams have been making over the last year.

Iwashita : Thank you. Yes. And it’s true. The UK and Japan, we are two countries worlds apart. I think it is important for us to exchange market views and our philosophy of management. We are facing new challenges. The market is growing, and we are competitors, but we are partners at the same time. We can collaborate with each other.

Barkshire : I totally agree. Personally, I passionately believe that as technology advances more quickly, our customers’ demands will continue to grow. It is important that through the development of our respective core technologies, we can deliver increased value to our customers. We can do so by collaborating to reach new customers and by developing our technologies more quickly. This should create a great advantage for both of our organizations.

Iwashita : So in the East Asia in both semiconductor and electronics areas, we understand that from the customer’s voice, almost all our customers now they are very happy because they receive the biggest order ever happen in the past. And this will keep growing. So that’s why now it’s the right time we both companies work together and try to expand our business.

Barkshire : So whilst this creates great opportunities, I think it also creates new challenges. Challenges around operations, lead times and supply chains, but also in how we can effectively reach and engage with our customers. This is why strategic partners present such a benefit. A few carefully selected, strategic partners that can help us rapidly grow together so that we can both continue to be successful.

Iwashita : In which market is Oxford Instruments especially focused ?

Barkshire : At Oxford Instruments, we have specialized technologies that span three key areas: the ability to analyze and characterize materials, imaging and characterization within life science, and also our semiconductor expertise. We provide key capabilities across a number of important markets such as power electronics, life science, battery technologies, and in a broad range of material science areas including quantum technologies, which may revolutionize many industries. In life science, we’re helping people in gene therapies and new drug diagnosis, we’re indirectly involved in number of cancer trials by providing the ability to image, analyze and understand the fundamental mechanisms of diseases. We are involved with pharmaceutical and life science research all around the globe with the leading institutes and industrial companies. In the semiconductor arena, our analysis and imaging capabilities are used broadly by all of the leading high volume manufacturing companies. And our semiconductor processing tools, very much like ULVAC, are used across applied R&D, but also increasingly in high volume manufacturing for energy and data communication applications.

2.  Management Strategy, the HORIZON

Iwashita : I understand that now you’re conducting Horizon, a transformational program in your group company. Can you tell us something about the Horizon? What is the future target?

Barkshire : Our Horizon Strategy is all about delivering on the inherent potential within Oxford Instruments. We have been transforming our company into a customer-centric, market-driven group where all of our efforts are focused on the needs and demands of our customers today and their future requirements. This has involved developing stronger commercial teams to better understand the needs and requirements of our chosen end markets. We’ve also focused the group into a number of niche technologies where we can provide leadership and create significant value for our customers. This has provided a lot of synergies and innovation. We’ve been investing in R&D so that we can create sustained technical differentiation in our chosen market and create even more value for our end customers. Through Horizon we have worked to deliver sustainable long-term revenue growth, but also to significantly improve the performance and quality of our business, which we recognize as the operating margin. Over the last five years since the implementation of the Horizon strategy, we’ve increased the operating margin from around 12% to 18%. As a technology company and based on the capabilities that we have within the organization, our ambition is to increase our margins to around 20%.

Iwashita : Very good. Very challenging target. Yes. So along with your world business strategy, how do you value the Japan market? How important this market is to you?

Barkshire : We think of all markets as important. If you look at our global revenues, we have roughly a quarter in the US, a quarter in Europe, a quarter in China, and a quarter in the rest of Asia. Oxford Instruments has always had a strong and proud relationship with our customers in Japan across a number of end applications. That’s why we’ve had a direct sales and marketing team there for many years. We see Japan as a leading market for new technologies, and advanced companies.

Continued on next issue.(two-part series)

About topological insulators, which are considered very promising in view of an IoT and AI society based on big data

Text of a lecture by Dr. Junji Tominaga

In phase-change memory, which is Dr. Tominaga’s research area, it is safe to say that any point reached marks a new starting point. He is currently working on topological insulators for use in next-generation phase-change memory. What does this strange word “topology” mean? We will introduce the possibilities and application fields of topological insulators, to which the topology theory is applied.
*This article was released in “PR Magazine No.69 published in December, 2019”

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was awarded to the following three people: Thouless, Haldane, and Kosterlitz. These three introduced the concept of topology, which is one of the geometric theories in mathematics, and discovered topological phase transitions in the basic characteristics of matter. While developing materials at the cutting edge of modern science in the 21st century, scientists all over the world are waging research battles in pursuit of great possibilities.
As part of this, research is underway on topological insulator materials, in which electricity flows on the surface despite the fact that no electricity flows inside.

Tominaga:In the fall of 2010, I had submitted a paper on superlattice energy-saving phase-change memory to a professional journal, and I was relieved that the paper had just been accepted. Because of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, I could not conduct any experiments for three or four months, so I spent most of my time reading technical papers. One paper said that Sb2Te3, which I was working with, is a topological insulator. While I was reading technical papers, the expression “time-reversal symmetry” caught my attention. So I decided to apply a magnetic field. When I brought a magnet close to an ordinary ternary alloy, nothing happened. But when I brought a magnet close to the superlattice stacked film I had developed, its threshold voltage jumped from 0.8 to 2 V. When I removed the magnet, the threshold voltage returned to its original value. It was a weak magnet of around 0.1 Tesla, but I found that bringing this magnet close to the film changed its resistance value by two orders of magnitude. The change that occurs in MRAM is much smaller. Based on past experience, I had thought that phase change did not exhibit any magnetism. This experiment showed that destroying the time-reversal symmetry would cause some change.

Special lecture Next‑generation Phase-change Memory”
November 21, 2018

In a topological insulator, the state of its electrons (wave function) is said to be “twisted,” unlike in ordinary insulators. An unimaginable phenomenon was confirmed in which this twist prevented electricity from flowing inside the material while allowing it to flow only on its surface.

Tominaga:The Ge2Sb2Te5 ternary alloy is an ordinary insulator since it does not have any twist. In other words, there are two faces inside the alloy. Part of it is an ordinary insulator while another part is different. What about a superlattice? An ordinary topological insulator only has planar electrical conductivity. (GeTe)2 is an ordinary insulator while Sb2Te3 is a topological insulator. When these two materials are repeatedly stacked, electricity will flow not only on the surfaces, but also on their interfaces. Since increasing the number of layers will proportionately increase the number of interfaces, we can extract more two-dimensional current and spin current. Furthermore, this can be accomplished at temperatures that are practical for  manufacturing instead of at super- low temperatures. It works fine at 470K. I cannot go into detail due to lack of space, but the technical paper in which I published my research results was cited in other papers around 300 times in 2017. There is now global competition to create materials like
There are many kinds of memory, and the fastest types are CPU, SRAM, DRAM, etc. Below these, there are storage memory devices, such as optical discs and hard disks (HDs). In terms of processing speed, DRAM is faster than HD by three orders of magnitude. When handling big data, this difference will become a major problem. To solve this problem, storage class memory has emerged. It is phase-change memory.


The great potential of phase-change memory, to which topological insulator superlattices will be applied

  • The next-generation phase-change memory will be a superlattice type and will be able to achieve significant energy savings.
  •  Phase-change memory is ideal for AI chips.
  •  It will become possible to carry out machine learning using big data and without using DRAM.
  •  Superlattice films using van der Waals bonding can also be made using sputtering.
  •  GeTe/SbTe superlattice film is a topological insulator.
  •  If topological characteristics can be manifested successfully, they can be applied to spin memory in the future.
  •  Advances in phase-change memory can be expected to be applied to fields beyond memory.

Phase-change Memory Research in Which Any Point Reached Marks a New Starting Point

Research policy taking a unique point of view with the motto, “We can do it if we try”

Junji Tominaga, PhD, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

The phase-change memory developed in the 1960s is based on a technology that records differences/changes that occur between crystallized and amorphous states of the same material. This technology had been overshadowed by magneto-optical (MO) technology Phase-change Memory Research in Which Any Point Reached Marks a New Starting Point

To Make a Toy Problem Come True

Fostering Future Researchers and Make Technological Progress for the Future through MEMS Development

Unlike the times of Edison, progress in science can no longer be achieved by a single scientist. In modern science, research projects are interdisciplinary, pressuring researchers to get results as early as possible. To Make a Toy Problem Come True