Forging win-win industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education

November 18, 2010

Despite all the talk of semicon/VLSI going around in India, is the correct curriculum really being taught in the various institutes? Is the academia able to prepare students to be better equipped to tackle today’s world’s problems? Does the student have sufficient skills that the Indian (and global) semicon industry recruiters are looking for? Is the student, and the academia semiconductor-industry ready sufficiently?

Panel discussion on industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education.

Panel discussion on industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education.

There was a lively panel discussion titled: Forging win-win industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education during the post lunch session of CDNLive India University conference.

I remember last year’s CDNLive India panel discussion quite clearly! There was an entertaining session on how to prepare the students to be semiconductor industry read. It remains a top read till date!

This year’s panel discussion was moderated by Dr. C.P. Ravikumar, technical director, University Relations, Texas Instruments India.

The panelists were:
* Prof Ajit Kumar Panda, NIST Behrampur, Orissa.
* K Krishna Moorthy, MD, National Semiconductor India
* Dr K. Radhakrishna Rao, head, analog training, TI.
* R. Parthasarathy, managing director, CADD Centre.

Starting the discussion, Dr. Ravikumar said that the semicon industry is currently seeing fast paced growth. New knowledge is getting added every year. The semicon industry has been present in India for over 25 years now, and counting.

There is a varied expectations from the academia in India. For instance, should they teach fundamentals or skills? Do they have silicon experience, or can the institute bring this about on its own? What is important — going up or down the abstraction level?

Or, should VLSI education be introduced at the graduate level or should it be in the Masters leel? There are several gaps in the curriculum itself. What can the industry do about those gaps?

Dr. Ravikumar said: “TI is celebrating 25 years. The kinds of problems TI is working on today are vastly different from the times when it had started in India. Today, it is doing large SoCs. The industry has hige expectations from the academia.

People, he added. seem to have diverse opinion on VLSI. Even at abstraction levels, we can talk about power, circuit design, larger blocks, etc. You will likely hear different sort of viewpoints depending on who you are talking to.

He said: “A lot of effort is being put into the formation of new M Tech programs in VLSI across various institutes. Wheher the students passing out from these institutes will find employment in the Indian semiconductor industry- is also a point of debate. Again, I’ve seen VLSI being talked about in the graduate level as well.”

Since there were four panelists, I shall add their views in a separate post. Stay tuned, folks! 😉

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  1. Dr. C.P. Ravikumar
    November 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Pradeep,

    Thanks for covering the panel discussion. It was a good discussion and we had a lot of Q&A. Like I said in the opening remark yesterday, the gap between academia and industry is bound to exist, since the semiconductor industry moves much faster than academia possibly can! Each passing year, new knowledge gets added.

    In 1980s, we used to teach transistor-level design of cells, building small circuits using gates, and layout alogrithms as part of a VLSI Design class. Perhaps an 8-bit adder or a 40bit multiplier were considered ambitious projects to layout. Everyone used to write their own layout software. Students used to implement these algorithms as part of class projects. There were post-graduate classes on more topics like VLSI test.

    In the 1990s, the situation changed – we started teaching other hardware description languages and logic synthesis. Student projects became more ambitious with availability of synthesis tools. A lot of colleges adopted the HDL+FPGA route to VLSI design. Separate courses were introduced on VLSI/CAD since we had enough things to fill a VLSI design course. Specialized Masters’ programs began to evolve in the area of VLSI. IIT Delhi introduced the first M.Tech program in VLSI Design, Tools and Technology in 1996.

    The deep submircon bug bit us in the last decade. SoC design through IP integration flow became vogue. Problems like design verification, low power design and manufacturability loomed large. It became harder for universities to relate to the problems faced by the industry. Access to deep submicron fabs became harder.

    VLSI “system” design has become much more complex today than it ever was, and knowledge of multiple disciplines is necessary to design a chip. It is a big challenge for a Professor to define individual “chip design” projects that will be considered worthwhile by industry.

    Regards,

    C.P. Ravikumar

  2. Nikita
    January 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Can I get a reference from where I can identify the present industry scenario and research prospects for a vlsi specialization student in India today, please?

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