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Posts Tagged ‘Indian semiconductor industry’

Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

September 13, 2013 2 comments

G450C

G450C

The government of India recently approved the setting up of two semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities in the country. It is expected to provide a major boost to the Indian electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) ecosystem. A look at the two proposals:

Jaiprakash Associates, along with IBM (USA) and Tower Jazz (Israel). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 26,300 crore for establishing the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I, 28nm node in phase II with the option of establishing a 22nm node in phase III. The proposed location is Greater Noida.

Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (HSMC) along with ST Microelectronics (France/Italy) and Silterra (Malaysia). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 25,250 crore for the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I and 45nm, 28nm and 22nm nodes in phase II. The proposed location is Prantij, near Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Now, this is excellent news for everyone interested in the Indian semiconductor industry.

One look at the numbers above tell me – NONE OF THESE are going to be 450mm fabs! Indeed, both will be 300mm fabs! After waiting for such a long time to even get passed by the Union Cabinet, are these 300mm fabs going to be enough for India? Is the technology choice even right for the upcoming wafer fabs in India? Let’s examine!

As you can probably see, both the projects have placed 22nm right at the very last phase! That’s very interesting!

Intel just showcased its Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family a few days back. I distinctly remember Intel’s Narendra Bhandari showing off the 22nm wafer sometime last week during a product launch!

For discussion’s sake, let’s say, a fab in India comes up by say, early 2015. Let’s assume that Phase 1 takes a full year. Which means, Phase 2, where 22nm node would be used, shall only be touched in 2016 or even beyond! Isn’t it? Where will the rest of the global industry be by then?

You are probably aware of the Global 450 Consortium or G450C, which has Intel, IBM, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and TSMC among its members.  What is the consortium currently doing? It is a 450mm wafer and equipment development program, which is leveraging on the industry and government investments to demonstrate 450mm process capabilities at the CNSE’s Albany Nanotech Complex. CNSE, also a consortium member, is the SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering!

So, what does all of this tell me?

One, these upcoming fabs in India will probably produce low- to mid-range chips, and some high-end ones at a later stage. Well, two, this does raise a question or two about India’s competitive advantage in the wafer fab space!  Three, there is lot of material on 450mm fabs, and some of that is available right here, on this blog! Have the Indian semiconductor industry folks paid enough attention to all that? I really have no idea!

Four, only the newer 300mm fabs built with higher ceilings and stronger floors will be able to be upgraded to 450mm, as presented by The Information Network’s Dr. Robert Castellano at the Semicon West 2013. Five, what are the likely alternative markets for 200mm and 300mm fabs? These are said to be MEMs and TSV, LEDs and solar PV. Alright, stop!

Perhaps, these product lines will be good for India and serve well, for now, but not for long!

Union budget 2013-14: Is there some hope for semiconductors?

February 28, 2013 8 comments

Here are highlights of the Union budget 2013-14 presented by P. Chidambaram, union Finance minister, Government of India. Also, is there finally, some hope for the Indian semiconductor industry?

Highlights

* Doing business with India should be easy, friendly and helpful.
* Foreign investments must be encouraged.
* Accelerating growth is the main goal.
* Need to encourage FDI in consonance with economic priorities.
* To target $1 trillion in infrastructure in the 12th plan.
* There are incentives for semiconductor wafer fab manufacturing.
* There will be appropriate incentives for the semiconductors industry, including zero customs duty on plants and machineries.

* To increase allocation for science and atomic departments.
* Indian Institute of BioTechnology to be set up at Ranchi.
* Non-conventional wind energy sector needs help.
* Will encourage cities to take up waste-energy projects through PPPs.
* Plan being developed for Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor.
* Preparatory work started for Bengalooru-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
* To launch two new industrial cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
* Propose to continue with the Technology Upgradation funds scheme for the textile sector.
* India’s first women’s public sector bank to be set up.
* Woman’s bank license to be in place by October, 2013.
* All PSU banks branches to have ATMs by March, 2014.
* Zero customs duty for electrical plants and machinery proposed.
* Higher customs duty on set-top boxes.
* To provide more than Rs 4200 crore for medical studies.
* To allocate Rs 1106 crore for alternative medicine industry.
* To allocate 100 crores to AMU, BHU, TISS-Guwahati and INTACH.
* Government to set up National Institute of Sports Coaches in Patiala.
* To expand private FM radio to 294 cities.
* To auction 839 licenses for FM network to cover all India.
* Government to construct power transmission system from Srinagar to Leh at the cost of Rs 1,840 crore, Rs 226 crore provided in current budget.
* Mobile phones priced more than Rs. 2,000 will see duty raised by 6 percent.
* Extend tax benefit to electrical vehicles.
* A company investing Rs 100 crore or more in plant and machinery in April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015 will be allowed 15 percent investment deduction allowance apart from depreciation.
* SEBI to simplify KYC norms governing foreign investors.
* SEBI will simplify procedures for entry of foreign portfolio investors to invest in India.
* Higher outlay on waste management.
* Government to monitor cost of doing business in India.
* Zero customs duty proposed for electrical plants and machinery.
* Proposal to provide Rs. 800 crore for the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy for generation-based incentive for wind energy projects as the non-conventional wind energy sector deserves incentives.
* Government will provide low interest bearing funds from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to IREDA to on-lend to viable renewable energy projects. The scheme will have a life span of five years.
* Proposal to set apart Rs. 2,000 crore and asked the National Innovation Council to formulate a scheme for the management and application of the fund.

Coming to semiconductors, the world today is discussing the viability of 450mm fabs. I am well aware that Malcolm Penn has been pushing for 450mm fabs across Europe. I believe that one such fab will cost in the excess of $25 billion, if not more. So, who will invest that kind of money in India? Do we have clean water and 24-hour electricity supply in any state that’s required for such a fab? What will this so-called 450mm fab manufacture? Does the fab have a blueprint in place? Well, have we even addressed any of these questions?

Analog Devices launches portable lab for electronic circuit design


Analog Devices, as part of its University Program, has launched a personal, affordable and portable lab for electronic circuit design in India at the 26th international conference on VLSI, currently ongoing in Pune, India.

Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, MD, Analog Devices India Pvt Ltd said that miniaturization and portability are the key trends today. Desktops have given way to laptops, and then to smartphones and tablets. The expensive vital signs monitoring equipment in hospitals is giving way to more wearable miniaturized power sipping (and not guzzling) medical gadgets. It is natural that education and training for engineering students start taking a similar route.

What is this personal lab?
What it means that the lab will fit in the palm of your hand and would enable students to learn analog and mixed signal design, anywhere and everywhere not limited by their expensive university/college lab setup where access is fairly limited and the amount of time is limited as well to a few hours every week.

Analog Devices' portable lab.

Analog Devices’ portable lab.

What does it mean for students?
With the lab, now, the students can carry on their experiments in their hostels/dorms and in their classrooms, using this portable lab, run experiments quickly during the class to see how real time real-life how a certain change in circuit impacts the results.

It has all the elements of a complete and expensive Lab setup on this portable kit connected with the student’s laptop. Students would not need equipment like oscilloscopes, waveform generators, logic analyzers and power supplies, expensive equipment that only top universities can afford.

Along with the portable kit, online and downloadable software and teaching materials, circuit simulation tools, online support and community, online textbook, reference designs and lab projects to design to enhance learning as a supplement to their core engineering curriculum are also provided free of charge.

This launch is likely to revolutionize electronic circuit design education and learning among the engineering academic community.

ISA, UK-TI MoU to develop semicon industry


PC-HKRecently, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) signed an MoU with East of England International (EOEI) to promote and develop the semiconductor industries in their respective domains.

On August 31st, which is early next week, the ISA and the UK-TI will be signing an MoU to extend this relationship further.

My colleague, Usha Prasad and I met up with Chandrika Anil, Manager – Membership Services, ISA,  to hear more about the MoU.

Elaborating on how the MoU between the ISA and UK Trade & Investment (UK-TI) is going to help in encouragement and development of Global Value Chain Partnerships, Chandrika said that the ISA and the UK-TI share a mutual interest to promote and develop the sector semiconductor industries in their respective domains. The MoU between ISA and UK-TI entails promotion of the concept of Global Value Chain Partnerships.

As part of the MoU, the two organisations have agreed that:

  • Global Value Chain Partnerships are of mutual benefit in the ongoing development of the Indian and UK semiconductor industries and the relationship between them.
  • ISA and UK-TI will co-operate with each other in the following activities to encourage and develop Global Value Chain. Partnerships between Indian and UK semiconductor firms. This allows for:
  1. Promoting the concept of Global Value Chain Partnerships amongst the Indian and UK semiconductor industries in the most appropriate manner
    • This may include website, newsletters, conferences and direct discussion with firms.
  2. Identifying, through ongoing research and discussion, areas of potential business opportunity which could be addressed by Indian and UK firms working together
    • These areas could form a set of themes around which ISA and UK-TI may wish to focus on seminars and other activities to raise awareness, understanding and interest.
  3. Encouraging firms in the two industries to register (free of charge) their interest in exploring relevant partnerships and business opportunities in the identified areas
    • This would involve inviting firms to provide information about their interests and capabilities, periodically reviewing identified opportunities which may be relevant
  4. Facilitating meetings between firms and groups of firms to take forward discussions with a view to formation of Global Value Chain Partnerships

The MOU will create a synergy between India and the UK in the areas of design, device and applications.

You can read more on ISA’s website. Thanks for the interaction, Chandrika, and well done, Usha!

Busy period ahead for Indian semicon, solar! While, TI bids for Qimonda’s tools!!


Yes, looks like it!

First, on August 31, the India Semiconductor Association and the UK-TI would be signing an MoU. The next day, September 1, there is a presentation by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and key officials on the government of India’s policies to the industry!

Next, on September 4, the DIT Secretary R. Chandrasekhar and the Additional Secretary, will be interacting with semiconductor companies in Bangalore.

Further on, September 16 is the day when the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, will be interacting with a small group of industry leaders at a solar PV conclave in Hyderabad!

That’s quite a lot, within a span of 15-odd days! Must say, this augurs well for the Indian semicon and solar/photovoltaics industry.

Interestingly, a lot of the big events are focusing on solar. So, my hunch is that the Indian solar industry may have some serious announcements to make in the coming weeks. Should that happen, I hope to bring those to you, time permitting.

TI bids for Qimonda’s tools
Oh, by the way, there’s news all over the Internet about Texas Instruments (TI) placing a bid of $172.5 million for Qimonda’s 300mm production tools from its closed DRAM fab. While this highlights TI’s focus on building the world’s first 300mm analog fab, I can’t stop wondering, what would have happened had an Indian investor really bought Qimonda!

What needs to be done to boost chip designing activities in India?


Anil Gupta, Technovation 2010 and UK CIG Convener, India Semiconductor Association (ISA), also needs no introduction. As former managing director, ARM Embedded Technologies Pvt. Ltd, he has been a prominent figure in several industry events. Here, he presents his views on what needs to be done for the Indian semiconductor industry.

An interesting fact being brought up time and again within the industry is the requirement of a robust entrepreneurial spirit and the need for much more sources of funding for semiconductor product companies. Also, renewable energy, healthcare and security are some of the verticals where the Indian industry believes there is a lot of value to be added from the Indian market/need perspective.

Further, local products/systems design and development activity needs to be encouraged and kick-started in a big way in India, for the industry to really succeed big time!

What does Indian semicon need?
We have discussed several times in the past regarding what needs to be done with the Indian semicon industry. So, what really needs to be done, given the current slowdown? What can be done boost chip designing activities in India.

According to Anil Gupta: “The Indian story has always been a story of a lot of potential, but most often this potential is never realized.

“The software industry has done well and has gone far, perhaps, somewhat farther than the hardware or chip-design industry in India. However, you still don’t see a software product conceptualized, designed and developed in India that is worth mentioning.

“The Infosys’es and the I-Flex’es can do a phenomenal job of executing software projects for their customers, but they are all a far cry from the league of the top consulting firms that define the problem to be solved and the software solutions to be built.

“The Indian software industry is still plagued with the “revenue per head” model and is unable to grow beyond it. The Indian software companies clearly bring a significant value to their customers but this is NOT strategic value, it is merely an execution value.

“Compared with the software industry, the embedded systems industry in India is puny today. However, the opportunities are phenomenal because there is so much automation potential in so many verticals. However, once again, the lack of significant products/solutions development in India is a very big hindrance.”

From a technical expertise perspective, there is a lot of engineering talent available, but the expertise is in general quite shallow. Even in the open source space like Linux, there aren’t many noteworthy contributions to date from the Indian engineering community.

Is the Indian fab story truly dead and buried?
In the past, we have extensively discussed whether the Indian fab story was dead and buried. Do you see any change in the current situation?

Well, it is dead for now! Gupta added: “Its day will come ONLY when the economics works out in its favour. Today, it doesn’t!”

He said: “It is interesting that many point out to the success of the solar fab investments. However, it should be noted that there is no solar wafer manufacturing activity worth mentioning. Only modules are being assembled in India as there seems to be a global glut in wafer production. Thus, wafer fabs in India is a pipe dream for now since the economics doesn’t work out.”

Does India have entrepreneurs committed to product development and willing to take that risk? How can they be encouraged?

Gupta said that there are not that many who are willing to come out and take the risk, and the lack of funding is a very big handicap. The lack of prior successes that could be emulated is probably the biggest handicap.

In that case, what needs to be done in India to move up a higher level, beyond design and verification?

He said: “Clearly, a willingness to take risk, strong stomach to face failure, and strong will to learn from that failure to rise again from the ashes!”

Union budget 2009: Nothing much to speak about on tech front, barring UIDAI!


The Union Budget 2009, detailed today by Honourable Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of Finance, Government of India, really has nothing much to speak about for the Indian technology sector, or what many would like to call as the Indian IT industry, barring the setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Some of the budget highlights include:
* Customs duty of 5 percent to be imposed on set-top boxes for TV broadcasting.
* Customs duty on LCD panels for manufacture of LCD TVs to be reduced from 10 percent to 5 percent.
* Full exemption from 4 percent special CVD on parts for manufacture of mobile phones and accessories to be reintroduced for one year.

None of these proposals will significantly boost manufacturing in the country. There is also a great need to boost home-grown companies!

Among the good points, the minister said that he will urge his colleagues in Central and State Governments to remove policy, regulatory and institutional bottlenecks for speedy implementation of infrastructure projects. The infrastructure projects include telecommunications, power generation, etc. This is some good news!

The IT industry has pointed out that it is facing difficulties in the assessment of software which involves transfer of the right to use after the levy of service tax on IT software service. To resolve the matter, the minister has proposed to exempt the value attributable to the transfer of the right to use packaged software from excise duty and CVD. Perhaps, this is some good news as well.

The minister also noted that the setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a major step in improving governance with regard to delivery of public services. The first set of unique identity numbers will be rolled out in 12 to 18 months. Rs. 120 crore has been provided for this project. This is also good news.

One other point to note is the feduction in respect of export profits available under sections 10A and 10B of the Income-tax Act. The deduction under these sections would not be available beyond the financial year 2009-2010. To tide over the slowdown in exports, the minister has proposed to extend the sun-set clauses for these tax holidays by one more year, i.e., for the financial year 2010-11.

Semicon, solar seem neglected this time!
The budget has missed out in helping develop the semiconductor and solar/PV industries. These sectors require the full backing of the government. Even local telecom manufacturing seems to have been bypassed. Nor is there any mention of how foreign direct investment (FDI), can be enhanced in these critical sectors.

Especially, solar photovoltaics holds a lot of promise. A couple of months ago, SEMI India, in its paper on solar PV in India, had highlighted the need for more action from the government of India, a more closer industry-government collaboration, as well as the need for financial institutions to pay more attention to the solar/PV segment in India.

I also didn’t see any proposal in the budget that would help strengthen India’s semiconductor ecosystem. How can India become an even more attractive destination for foreign investors? There are companies, especially some Indian technocrats, who would probably like to return to India and set up semiconductor product companies. Would the VC community finance semicon start-ups? What would excite these folks?

Recently, BV Naidu, chairman, India Semiconductor Association, (ISA), mentioned in a discussion, that it would be appropriate if the Government of India could provide seed and start-up capital for new ventures and set up a focused venture fund of about Rs 200 crores.

According to him, the technology development board could administer these funds and the fund may provide up to 80 percent of the approved project cost with equity balance being brought in by entrepreneur. The Government can also subsidize the acquisition of EDA tools by start-ups and other SMEs in this sector.

None of these points have been addressed in today’s union budget!

Someone recently questioned me whether India will ever have a fab. Frankly, I don’t know! Having a good, strong local semiconductor industry does require a huge support from the government.

This could’ve been a much more braver and bolder budget. Perhaps, future budgets will address points given a miss in this edition.

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