Self-Reliant India – Installing Semiconductor Fabrication  

By Devendra Kumar, Editor in Chief, ELE Times

Indian electronics products market segment consumes a substantial amount of semiconductor components. The total semiconductor component market is estimated to be about $20 billion in FY 2019 growing to $45 billion by 2025.

The National Policy on Electronics 2019 also envisages to position India as a global hub for ESDM with thrust on exports by encouraging and driving capabilities for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

We have a critical need to develop indigenous capabilities in electronics system products design and design-led manufacturing, especially for the products which are in the critical networking infrastructure. In devices like smart phones, base stations, switches, routers, etc., the data security has to be safeguarded both at the chip level and at the electronics system level.

Also India should set-up industrial-scale semiconductor wafer fabrication units and develop self-reliance to meet the import challenges with the changing geopolitical scenario. In today’s geo-political situation where data security has become a major concern, self-reliance in the semiconductor chip products is strategically very critical.

Although India is one of the leaders in semiconductor design, Indian companies’ share of the semiconductor product market is considerably small — less than five percent.

It may be a point of discussion whether to go for the state of the art latest technology in chip design and manufacturing or focus on manufacturing economical and technically viable options like 28nm chips. 28nm can be valuable in terms of profitability. There is enough life left for 28nm for the consumption in India across all nodes. India is currently consuming about $1billion of semiconductors at 28 nm. That is going to remain the same or slightly higher for the next five years compared to 14nm, 10 nm or even 7nm.

Given the lack of basic infrastructure, this is the reason why India has not witnessed investments into the fabless ecosystem. But the current geopolitical scenario and broken supply chains due to COVID-19, the government may finally accumulate the incredibly high expenses for setting up fabless units. Investment is generally an issue in fabless units, and so we need to generate enough amount as seed investment for the fabless ecosystem over the next fifteen years so we can have a long term sustainable plan similar to ISRO and DRDO.

Global synergies and partnerships are essential to achieve this goal of developing a self-reliant electronics system products ecosystem. Government should put a strategic plan similar to the incentive plan for manufacturing to incentivise domestic product design and design-led manufacturing of electronics systems. There is a need to design chips for the domestic market and integrate with the foundry. The design, ATMP and foundry have to work parallel to gain headway. We have one of the best chip designers in the world and we have to convert that into a vibrant fabless ecosystem.

By Devendra Kumar, Editor in Chief, ELE Times

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