India semiconductor fab dream: One more bus to get in

Date: 21/10/2022
At the recently held 17th IESA Vision Summit 2022 in Bangalore, you could see the presence of most of the US and Europe based top 10 global semiconductor-industry focused companies except chip foundries. John Neuffer, President of U.S.-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) was himself present at the event. The speakers from three leading semiconductor equipment manufacturing companies namely Applied Materials, Lam Research, and KLA gave keynotes covering global semiconductor industry trends and its implications on India's semiconductor market. The speakers from the semiconductor equipment companies include: Prabu Raja - Senior Vice President, Semiconductor Product Group - Applied Materials, Rangesh Raghavan - Corporate VP and GM - Lam Research Corporation, and Dominic David - President - KLA India.

Electronics Design Automation (EDA) software tools is another important part of the semiconductor eco. You could see all the top three EDA companies namely Synopsys, Cadence and Siemens were present at the event and share lot of their latest gyan on chip-design-automation to the attendees. The keynotes/talks delivered by Ravi Subramanian - GM Corporate staff - System Designs Group, Synopsys, Anirudh Devgan - CEO - Cadence Design Systems and Ruchir Dixit - Vice President and Country Head - Seimens EDA.

Semiconductor equipment and EDA tools are basic foundation of chip industry. Though foundries make billions of dollars of revenue, far higher then equipment and EDA toolmakers, they are heavily dependent on equipment suppliers and EDA tools. Lot of Indians holding senior positions in these companies. All the six speakers mentioned above are Indians.

Pic above: Young Indian executives working in global semiconductor companies discussing on next wave of semiconductor design.
From L to R: Moderator: Muthukrishnan Chinnaswamy - CEO - Semiconductor Fabless Accelerator Lab(SFAL), Girish Baliga - General Manager|Marketing - Keysight Technologies, Rituparna Mandal - GM - MediaTek , Ruchir Dixit - VP and Country Manager - Siemens EDA, Anil Kempanna - Vice President - Intel, Ashok Vittal - Senior Member, Technical Staff, EDA Group - Synopsys, and Kripa Venkatachalam - Vice President - Cadence.

Any region or any company which want to get into semiconductor manufacturing, they absolutely need to work closely with semiconductor equipment and EDA toolmakers. India's fresh bid to get into semiconductor manufacturing can only be successful with the support of leading semiconductor equipment makers and EDA software tool vendors. So in that sense, this year's Vision Summit was clearly centred around building semiconductor Eco.

India's strength lies in its ability to design chips and electronics systems. Millions of VLSI and electronics design engineers in India mainly concentrated in the cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, tech clusters around Delhi, and in Chennai have designed hundreds of new semiconductor chips completely from design to tapeout. India clearly has world-leading-strength in this area. And this strength is growing. Leading fabless design companies such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, Marvell, Broadcom, send their GDS files to leading foundries mainly TSMC and get back taped-out chip to India's test facilities for testing and then volumes are made by these foundries and shipped worldover. Why not that foundry present in India? Qualcomm has openly supported to utilise India's fab facility to make its chips domestically. So what is really stopping leading semiconductor foundries from building a fab here. It is simply too expensive, highly-risky and also lot of geopolitics involved. 10/20 years back, investors used to complain about lack of market. Now it is growing and big market, if not for every semiconductor vertical, but for smart phones and computers and any such mass consuming electronics products. When it comes to investment, Government of India is ready to pump in tens of billions of dollars. So the only thing left is geopolitics situation. That's where US Chips Act comes in. US is heavily restricting movement of latest cutting-edge technology born out of U.S.-based companies getting into China. That costs billions of dollars of revenue loss for U.S.-based companies and private companies headquartered in its allied nations. One of the critical technology to make 3 nm chips is use of Extreme Ultra Violet(EUV) laser based lithography equipment. The only company making such equipment is Netherland based ASM lithography. Though they have developed such a cutting-edge technology they can't sell that to China based foundries.

So lot of immediately available cutting-edge semiconductor equipment manufacturing technology and EDA tools can directed towards regions which have high potential to compete with China. By doing that these companies can generate revenue and also US goal of curtailing providing cutting-edge technology to China can be achieved. So India is clearly an opportunity for these companies to invest. Vivek Thyagi, chairman of IESA was expressing a similar view in a business TV news channel.

With the support of all the stakeholders, what is really required is investment of billions of dollars into a fab in India by risk-taking investor. Vedanta, an oil and gas and metal company forays into semiconductor high-tech manufacturing by signing memory of understanding with government of Gujarat to set up semiconductor and display fab units. This is one great opportunity for Government, US, semiconductor equipment makers and EDA toolmakers to achieve their present geopolitical and business goal.

There is a saying by experts in semiconductor domain, India missed the bus for its failure to sustain electronics and component manufacturing eco post economic liberlization. This author thinks this is one more bus for India to get into semiconductor manufacturing.


Pic above: Srinivasa Reddy N, Author, and Editor of EE Herald with John Neuffer at the IESA Vision Summit 2022.

Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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