Hiring of one Software Developer at Publications Division Headquarters, New Delhi on contract. || Subscribe print version with complimentary e-version @Rs.530 per annum; Subscribe only e-version @Rs.400 per annum. || !! ATTENTION ADVERTISERS !! Advertisers are requested to give full details of job Vacancies/ Minimum size will now be 200 sq.cm for shorter advertisements || Click here to become an e-resource aggregator of Publications Division || New Advertisement Policy || ||

In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 20, 12-18 August 2023

Revolutionising Engineering Education to Catalyse Semiconductor Ecosystem

Dali Agrahari

India's vision to establish itself as a semiconductor powerhouse in Asia has set in motion a transformation in the country's education landscape. Inaugurating the Semicon India 2023 conference, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi highlighted the need for a robust semiconductor ecosystem and emphasised the significance of upgrading the engineering curriculum.

As part of this transformative initiative, more than 300 prominent colleges in India have been identified to offer specialised courses on semiconductors. This strategic move is expected to nurture a skilled workforce of over one lakh design engineers within the next 5 years, strengthening India's semiconductor sector. The growing start-up ecosystem in the country is also poised to play a crucial role in bolstering the semiconductor industry. "Under Semicon India, over 30 semiconductor design start-ups have been set up in India including some from semiconductor leaders from Silicon Valley. Five start-ups have already received government financial support and another 25 start-ups are being evaluated for the proposals for NextGen products and devices," according to Minister of State for Electronics and IT Shri Rajeev Chandrashekhar .

India's vision goes beyond meeting the domestic semiconductor demands. The goal is to position itself as a potential market leader, reducing the world's reliance on China for semiconductors. By embracing this initiative, the country aims to elevate its 'Make in India' program and exert a significant influence on the global semiconductor industry.

Semicon India 2023, themed 'Catalysing India's Semiconductor Ecosystem,' served as a platform to showcase India's robust semiconductor strategy and forward-thinking policies. A gathering of global leaders from industry, academia, and research institutions converged at this prestigious event to foster a collaborative spirit, synergise expertise, and catalyse India's vision of emerging as a global hub for semiconductor design, manufacturing, and technology development.

AICTE Approved Curriculum for Semiconductor Education

In February this year, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) introduced two specialised courses - (i) B. Tech Electronics VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) Design & Technology (ii) Diploma in IC Manufacturing. By aligning the curriculum with cutting-edge industry requirements, AICTE seeks to empower aspiring engineering students to embark on a career path with exceptional growth prospects and a profound impact on the global semiconductor ecosystem.

B.Tech Electronics VLSI Design & Technology

·         Introduction to IC Design & Technology: Foundational principles and concepts of integrated circuits design and fabrication processes.

·         Digital Systems Labs: Hands-on experience with digital systems design and analysis, preparing students for practical application.

·         Semiconductor Device Fundamentals: In-depth understanding of semiconductor devices and their functioning in various electronic circuits.

·         Analog Electronics: Comprehensive knowledge of analog electronic circuits, essential for VLSI design.

·         Introduction to CMOS Processing: A detailed exploration of CMOS processing techniques and their significance in semiconductor manufacturing.

·         Introduction to VLSI Design: An overview of the VLSI design methodology and its applications.

·         Analog IC Design: Advanced training in the design of analog integrated circuits, fostering expertise in this critical domain.

·         Static Timing Analysis: Techniques to analyse and optimise the timing of digital circuits in VLSI design.

·         Fabrication and Characterisation Lab: Practical exposure to semiconductor fabrication processes and device characterisation.

·         Physics of Electrical Engineering Materials: Study of electrical properties of materials used in semiconductor devices.

Diploma in IC (Integrated Circuit) Manufacturing

·         Introduction to VLSI Fabrication: Fundamentals of VLSI fabrication processes and techniques.

·         Semiconductor Fab Familiarisation: Acquaintance with semiconductor fabrication facilities and their operation.

·         Electronic Devices and Circuits: In-depth study of electronic devices and circuits used in semiconductor manufacturing.

·         Clean Room Technologies: Understanding clean room protocols and their critical role in semiconductor fabrication.

·         Semiconductor Technology Equipment Maintenance: Essential skills for the maintenance and troubleshooting of semiconductor equipment.

·         Allied Activities for Foundry: Safety protocols and procedures specific to foundry operations, along with vacuum technology.

·         Industrial Automation: Introduction to automation principles and applications in semiconductor manufacturing.

·         Semiconductor Packaging and Testing: Techniques for packaging and testing of semiconductor devices.

·         Electronics System Assembly or Product Design: Training in electronics system assembly or product design processes.

·         Renewable Energy Technologies: Exploring renewable energy technologies in relation to semiconductor fabrication and sustainability.

Universal Trends Driving Semiconductor Market Growth

Connected Devices: With more gadgets requiring computing power and connectivity, the demand for advanced semiconductors is soaring. The rise of IoT (Internet of Things) is pushing the semiconductor industry to new heights.

Emerging Technologies: Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and 5G are driving high-performance semiconductor demand. AI requires specialised chips for complex computations, while 5G networks need high-speed chips for faster data transmission.

Digital Transformation: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for digital transformation in businesses. As a result, online services, telemedicine, and e-commerce surged, creating a higher demand for semiconductors.

Government Initiatives: Governments around the world are investing in renewable energy, smart cities, and infrastructure, driving the need for improved semiconductor technology.

Automotive Demand: The shift to-wards EVs (Electric Vehicles) and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and autonomous driving has significantly increased the demand for semiconductors in the automotive industry.

Industrial Applications: Automation, robotics, and IoT technologies in the industrial sector require semiconductors to optimise production and predictive maintenance.

A survey conducted by KPMG in partnership with the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) sheds light on the industry's outlook for 2023 and beyond. The automotive sector emerges as the most crucial revenue driver for semiconductor companies in the coming year, surpassing wireless communications, which had held that position previously. KPMG's research projects automotive semiconductor revenue to reach $200 billion annually by the mid-2030s and exceed $250 billion by 2040. The IoT, Cloud Computing, and AI follow closely in terms of importance for driving revenue. Notably, the metaverse, a concept gaining momentum in the tech world, was ranked last in importance for driving semiconductor company revenue over the next year. As this technology evolves and adoption increases, it will be intriguing to witness how perceptions change in the years to come.

As the semiconductor industry continues to evolve, collaboration, innovation, and adaptability will remain key factors for companies striving to maintain their competitive edge in the ever-changing landscape of technology. With semiconductors playing an ever more vital role in powering the future, their significance is set to grow exponentially, shaping a world that thrives on cutting-edge technology and digital connectivity.

AI & Semiconductors: The Dynamic Duo

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the semiconductor industry are joining forces to bring about a technological revolution like never before. As we delve into the fascinating world of AI and semiconductors, we discover how these two innovative fields are shaping the future of technology and pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

Understanding AI's Role in Semiconductors

At its core, AI is an intelligent computer system capable of performing tasks that would typically require human intelligence. It can learn from data, recognise patterns, make predictions, and even solve complex problems. However, AI needs powerful computer chips to function effectively. This is where the semiconductor industry comes into play. The semiconductor industry, often referred to as the chip industry, designs and manufactures advanced computer chips, also known as Integrated Circuits (ICs). These chips serve as the brain and memory of our electronic devices. For AI to work seamlessly, it requires specialised chips that can handle vast amounts of data and complex algorithms. Standard chips used in regular computers are not sufficient to meet AI's demands.

Chip Design: The Key to Empowering AI

To cater to AI's needs, chip designers are evolving their approach. Instead of relying on conventional chips, they are incorporating multiple microprocessors and accelerators within AI chips. Each of these components specialises in specific functions required for AI applications. This intelligent integration of microprocessors and accelerators enables AI to process data faster and perform complex tasks with remarkable efficiency.

Impact on Semiconductor Manufacturing

The synergy between AI and the semiconductor industry extends beyond AI chip design. AI is playing a pivotal role in revolutionising semiconductor manufacturing processes. This newfound collaboration is driving incredible breakthroughs across the entire semiconductor manufacturing value chain.

Capitalising on AI's Potential

AI's potential in the semiconductor industry is vast and promising. McKinsey reports that AI and Machine Learning (ML) are responsible for $5 billion to $8 billion in annual earnings for semiconductor companies. However, this represents only 10% of the true value AI and ML can bring to the industry. The figures are projected to rise exponentially in the coming years, reaching $85 billion to $95 billion annually, accounting for 20% of the industry's revenue. With these projections in mind, semiconductor companies are investing heavily in advanced nodes to develop cutting-edge chips and packaging solutions. These advancements will be the cornerstone of AI's future growth and its ability to truly reach its fullest potential.

AI-Powered Fabs: Factory of the Future

As AI chips become more potent, semiconductor fabs (factories) are transforming into full-fledged AI-powered facilities. This evolution is already underway. Some companies are leading the charge by utilising AI and ML to optimise process control through predictive modeling. They use AI and ML to analyse data at each step of the semiconductor manufacturing process. By doing so, they can improve manufacturing performance, system stability, and scalability. This real-time data analysis ensures that semiconductor fabs operate with maximum efficiency, ultimately leading to the creation of next-gen AI chips.

Boosting Efficiency and Decision-Making

AI is being used to enhance AI chip yield, increase throughput, and optimise chip design. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in reducing research and development costs. Another significant application of AI is in identifying defects, thereby ensuring high-quality chip production. Furthermore, AI is breaking down data silos within the manufacturing environment. As a result, different sectors responsible for chip creation and distribution, such as operations, supply chains, and enterprise resource planning, can communicate seamlessly. This newfound visibility enables informed automatic decision-making and streamlines the entire chip manufacturing process.

Embracing the Future of AI and Semiconductors

As we venture into this exciting era of AI and semiconductors, we must acknowledge the immense potential it holds. Together, AI and the semiconductor industry are poised to revolutionise technology and shape our world in unprecedented ways. From enabling powerful AI applications to optimising semiconductor manufacturing processes, this collaboration promises to unlock opportunities that were once considered impossible.

Talent and Skills Demand

As per the findings of KPMG survey, talent risk is perceived as the most significant issue facing the semiconductor industry over the next three years. The survey highlights that despite the complexities posed by the current economic climate, the demand for skilled specialists in the semiconductor industry remains strong. Around 71% of the major companies involved in the business anticipate increasing their global workforce in 2023, underscoring the ongoing need for talented individuals to fuel growth and innovation in this dynamic field. While this figure is slightly lower than last year's 87%, it still demonstrates a healthy expectation for talent acquisition in the industry.

Notably, talent development and retention emerge as the top strategic priority for industry leaders, with 67% of respondents ranking it as a "top 3" priority. Despite a slight decline from the 77% mark in the previous year's survey, talent management continues to take precedence over other strategic considerations. This focus on talent development indicates the industry's recognition of the pivotal role skilled professionals play in driving technological advancements and shaping the future of semiconductors.

Challenges in Semiconductor Industry

Supply Chain Disruptions and Geopolitical Factors: The semiconductor industry operates within a complex global supply chain, where various components and materials are sourced from different countries. However, this intricate network is susceptible to disruptions caused by natural disasters, trade conflicts, and geopolitical tensions. Natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes can damage semiconductor manufacturing facilities, leading to temporary shutdowns or reduced production capacities. Additionally, trade conflicts and geopolitical factors, such as trade tariffs and export restrictions, can create uncertainties in the supply chain and impact the flow of raw materials and finished products across borders. These disruptions can result in shortages and supply delays in the semiconductor industry, affecting industries that heavily rely on semiconductor components.

Intellectual Property and Patent Wars: In the highly competitive semiconductor landscape, protecting Intellectual Property (IP) Rights is paramount. Semiconductor companies invest significant resources in research and development (R&D) to innovate and create cutting-edge technologies. Patents safeguard these innovations, giving companies exclusive rights to their inventions and designs. However, disputes over patents can arise between different semiconductor firms, leading to legal battles and uncertainties. Patent wars can create delays in product development and restrict the use of certain technologies, impacting the growth and progress of the semiconductor industry as a whole. To avoid such disputes, companies often engage in licensing agreements or cross-licensing arrangements, where they grant each other access to their patented technologies, fostering innovation and cooperation within the industry.

Environmental Sustainability: Semiconductor manufacturing processes involve the use of various chemicals, water, and energy. These processes, if not properly managed, can contribute to environmental pollution and resource depletion. Recognising the importance of environmental sustainability, semiconductor companies are taking steps to reduce their ecological footprint and adopt cleaner practices. Through the implementation of eco-friendly manufacturing processes, energy-efficient equipment, and the responsible management of waste, the semiconductor industry strives to minimise its impact on the environment. Embracing sustainable practices not only benefits the planet but also enhances the industry's reputation and appeals to environmentally-conscious consumers and investors.

Rising R&D Costs: Pushing the boundaries of semiconductor technology requires substantial investments in research and development. Developing advanced semiconductor technologies demands cutting-edge talent, state-of-the-art equipment, and sophisticated design tools, all of which come at a significant cost. As the complexity of semiconductor chips increases, so do the R&D expenses. Balancing the pursuit of innovation with the need to manage costs becomes a critical challenge for semiconductor companies. Collaborating with partners, universities, and research institutions can provide access to additional expertise and resources, alleviating the burden of rising R&D costs.

Economic Volatility: The demand for semiconductor products can be cyclical, influenced by various economic factors and market conditions. Economic fluctuations, such as recessions or unexpected changes in consumer spending, can impact the demand for electronic devices and, consequently, semiconductor components. Semiconductor companies must closely monitor market conditions and accurately forecast demand to optimise their operations. Adjusting production levels, managing inventory, and making strategic decisions during times of economic uncertainty are essential for sustaining growth and resilience in the semiconductor industry.

Conclusion

A significant milestone in India's journey towards semiconductor prowess has been the seamless alignment of geopolitics, internal politics, and private sector capacities, culminating in India's entry into the semiconductor manufacturing market. Micron's investment in India stands as a glowing testament to the positive momentum and potential for numerous corporations to follow suit, further bolstering India's semiconductor ecosystem.

Embracing a paradigm shift in the educational front is an imperative for India to manifest its ambitious goals. Revamping the engineering curriculum and integrating specialised semiconductor courses are pivotal in equipping the workforce with cutting-edge skills, fostering innovation, and practical application. Collaborations between academia and the semiconductor industry will lay the groundwork for hands-on experience, nurturing a generation of engineers poised to revolutionise the semiconductor landscape.

Instilling a culture of innovation and research in educational institutions will yield future leaders and domain experts in the semiconductor industry, driving India's technological prowess and ensuring its competitive edge in the Industry 4.0 revolution. The nation's solar power and renewable energy targets will complement this journey, addressing energy requirements and solidifying India's commitment to sustainability.

Policy reforms that incentivise semiconductor manufacturing facilities and streamline taxation processes reflect India's unwavering commitment to creating an environment conducive to the semiconductor industry's growth. This comprehensive roadmap aligns with India's global responsibilities, fostering collaborations with friendly countries and elevating India's status as a trusted partner on the international stage.

The journey towards realising India's semiconductor dream is infused with boundless promise and potential. Armed with a skilled and innovative workforce, India is poised to script a historic chapter, not only in its own narrative but also in the annals of global technology leadership. As Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi eloquently puts it, this is the opportune moment, not just for India, but for the entire world, to witness India's semiconductor prowess and its far-reaching impact on shaping a better, brighter future for all.

(The author is a career coach with an online coaching platform. You can send us your feedback on this article at

feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.