The Robert N. Noyce Award is the top honor that the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) gives out annually. It is given in recognition of an industry leader who has made the most significant contribution to the semiconductor industry in technology or public policy. In many cases, with this year being a representative example, the Award recipient has had a significant impact in both.
Let’s talk a little about this award, who has won it in the past, and why NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, this year’s winner, is long overdue for winning it.
Robert N. Noyce
Robert N. Noyce is thought of by many as one of the founders of Silicon Valley. He co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957, believed to be the initial seed company that Silicon Valley grew up around, and later founded Intel, arguably still the most influential semiconductor company over the last 50 or so years. Considered one of the most influential founders of the modern computing age, Noyce was a legend in the industry and, along with Gordon Moore and then Andy Grove, created a powerful legacy that, while a tad tattered at the moment, remains a significant power today.
Robert N. Noyce Award
The Robert N. Noyce Award was created by SIA in 1990 to recognize Noyce’s incredible contribution to the industry. Given Noyce’s broad contribution as a scientist, engineer, statesman, and entrepreneur who played one of the most significant roles in creating the modern computing industry, being connected to his name and legacy is a tremendous honor for the well-deserved engineers who have received the award over time.
Past winners include Gordon Moore, the only one to win the award twice, W.J. “Jerry” Sanders, who founded both the SIA and AMD, and John Hennessey, Alphabet’s Chairman and former Stanford President. Only two women have won this award, something I know the industry is working to improve on, Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, who was the chief trade negotiator for the U.S. from 1997 to 2001. Most recently, Dr. Lisa Su, the current CEO of AMD, credited with turning that company into a world power again, won the award.
Huang is one of the few award winners who have had a huge impact on both technology and policy. Creating solid foundations in gaming, GPU computing – both on the desktop and more recently in the cloud – and essentially creating the foundation for the coming wave of autonomous robots, including automobiles and drones, he has had a massive impact on the industry. Most recently, his creation of Omniverse as a critical foundational element for the Metaverse and an effort to create Digital Twins of everything, anticipates a change potentially exceeding the one driven by the creation of the Internet.
Currently, NVIDIA is the primary technology player in the coming age of autonomous machines. Huang saw this opportunity before most of his peers and pivoted NVIDIA early, which is now paying off for his company and the industry. NVIDIA is also one of the biggest advocates of using the technology they develop internally, having digitally created several of their most recent buildings before building them and using the technology heavily in creating their industry presentations. This last was evident in both their most recent company conference and Siggraph.
The Robert N. Noyce award annually recognizes the executive making the most significant impact on the semiconductor industry. Past winners are essentially those who created the industry, and more current winners are driving change to embrace the new normal and keep Silicon Valley in its prominent place in the tech industry. Jensen Huang is one of the few winners driving the technology that is changing both the industry and policies, like how you create autonomous cars safely using simulation, that will assure the most significant positive impact.
The award is well deserved, leaving me with my only question, which is why did it take so long?