Saturday, July 26, 2008

Karnataka semicon policy very soon!

The government of Karnataka will be announcing a semiconductor policy very soon, according to Katta Subramanya Naidu, the minister for Excise, Information, BWWB, IT and BT, government of Karnataka, while delivering the opening address at the ISA Excite organized by the India Semiconductor Association.

Over the last several years, India has been a destination favored by almost all leading global semiconductor companies for setting up their development centers for semiconductors and embedded designs.

The size of the Indian semicon design industry is currently $6 billion across VLSI and board design, and embedded software, with the potential to be around $9 billion by 2009. There are nearly 200 companies and it employs over 130,000 professionals, all over India, with the potential to employ over 180,000 by 2009. The Indian semicon design industry has a CAGR of nearly 22 percent versus the global average of 7-8 percent.

Nearly 90 percent of the VLSI design work is done out of Bangalore alone. Appropriately, the ISA is headquartered in Bangalore, the heart of India's chip industry. The minister said: "The conducive work environment policies and high-quality talent are the important attractions for both MNCs and Indian companies to set up shop here. We value the contribution of our technology leaders and engineers to build the economy of the state and make it a global leader. Bangalore is next only to Silicon Valley, California, in terms of the work done here."

New centers likely
In future, the government of Karnataka wants to look at Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli as important centers to be developed. "These are centers of education with high quality and quantity of engineering talent. Our government is working on improving the connectivity to these cities to help attract investment there, as well as the expansion of companies from Bangalore to other towns within Karnataka," he added.

Welcome the ISA initiative to launch Excite, a program for the semiconductor and ecosystem companies, he noted that it was a good platform to understand the technology trends and to collaborate with the right partner.

He said: "Karnataka today is at the crossroads. We have the direction and leadership of Hon'ble chief minister Yeddyruppa. He is extremely committed to the cause of making Karnataka as the most preferred destination for the semiconductor industry and electronics hardware manufacturing. My (BJP) government would be glad to extend any support for your business plans in the state."

Semicon policy soon
The state government plans to announce a semiconductor policy in the very near future, actually. It has also earmarked land for a hardware technology park near the new airport (in Devanahalli).

The government is also thinking in the lines of finishing schools in PPP mode as the semiconductor industry is technology driven, and demands continuous training and re-skilling of the workforce.

Initiatives in Karnataka
The minister pointed out that his government has been taking several pro-active steps for further accelerating the growth of these sectors, as well as for their expansion in tier II and III cities. For these two sectors, the government proposes to identify and set apart exclusive IT/BT zones in Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Shimoga and Gulbarga.

Yeddyruppa, the state chief minister, has made an announcement of a number of initiatives to boost the growth and development of IT/BT. A bio-IT park on a 100-acre plot is proposed to be developed with private participation near Bangalore. IT parks, with private participation, would be set up in tier II and III cities. A massive IT city on the lines of the Electronics City near Bangalore is under consideration. Similarly, BT parks are proposed to be set up in Mangalore, Dharwad and Bidar. KEONICS, a government of Karnataka undertaking, will play a major role in development of the IT city, IT parks and computer literacy campaigns.

He added that the state government believes in formulating initiatives and policies in consultation with the industry. The existing Mahithi IT policy is also being revised with inputs from the Vision Group on IT headed by N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys.

"The state government would be happy to see IT and BT developments happening in tier II and III cities. We are taking steps to improve and upgrade the infrastructure in these cities. The CM is personally reviewing the construction and upgradation of airports in Mysore, Shimoga and Gulbarga, which will provide vital air connectivity, essential for the growth of industry and business," he noted.

The NASSCOM-Kearney report has identified 43 potential locations in the country for IT development. The report also suggests measures to be taken to make these locations attractive for IT investments. Recommendations, such as improving the quality of education, imparting employable skills to the uneducated youth, improving infrastructure, particularly, air connectivity, etc., would be taken into consideration.

The minister said: "Our government would take all the necessary steps to ensure that there is no flight of investment to other states, and to make Karnataka the most attractive region for IT/BT investments. We want the semiconductor industry to grow and flourish in the state."

Participative semicon policy likely
Elaborating on the proposed semiconductor policy for Karnataka, Ashok Kumar C. Manoli, principal secretary to the government, said: "When you look at India, it is software, and when you look at China, it is hardware. We should make a beginning and try and become the global capital for both hardware and software. We need to design such a policy that design activities continue and also facilitate manufacturing."

He added: "We will come up with a very participative semiconductor policy. It will also look at addressing infrastructure requirements for manufacturing setups." According to him, the hardware industry is the foundation for the entire revolution, which the government is looking at. He requested all companies present at the ISA Excite to participate at the forthcoming event, and added that the state government was committed and fully geared up to deliver.

Announcing the ISA Excite initiative, Sanjeev Keskar, country sales manager, Freescale Semiconductor India Pvt Ltd, said: "We need to collaborate with the right partner. The ISA felt the need to arrange an ecosystem meet. Telecom and healthcare are the two drivers of importance." The ISA has plans to take Excite to other cities too, possibly, New Delhi, focusing on industrial and consumer.

The one-day ISA Excite event had an exhibition running simultaneously, featuring about 40 companies. These included ARM, Farnell, Ittiam Systems, Broadcom, Cosmic Circuits, Windriver, Wipro, HCL, AMDL, LSI Logic, TI, NXP, Cisco, Synopsys, SemIndia, Freescale, Open Silicon, MindTree, AMD, Analog Devices, RFMD, Cir-Q-Tech, NewEra, STPI, etc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Get ready for building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)

Building integrated photovoltaics or BIPV! Hey folks, prepare yourself to hear more about this term and the technology for quite some time to come! Solar/PV will be the next big story in India, and BIPV should be right up there at the top!

While BIPV is not yet talked about a lot in India, though, it may surprise many that there has been a deployment in India, I am sure that BIPV will be doing the rounds very soon.

There's another interesting angle to the BIPV, rather, solar story. Can EDA play a role here? I will examine this angle some time later.

First, what is BIPV? According to PV Resources, BIPV is merely photovoltaic systems integrated with an object's building phase. They are built/constructed along with an object, or planned together with the object. Yet, they could be built later on.

The following BIPV systems are said to be recognized:

* Facade or roof systems added after the building was built.
* Facade integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* Roof-integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* "Shadow-Voltaic" - PV systems also used as shadowing systems, built along with an object or added later.

If there are more, kindly share the information with me!

Now, to India. Just recently, Dr. Madhu Atre, president, Applied Materials India, referred to the use of BIPV during a discussion. He said that for energy-efficient glass, you could save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). I hope we take serious note of what Dr. Atre said!

Didn't they say green IT was the most used and abused term? We really love talking so much about green IT. Well, here's an outstanding example, and actually, an example very few have really bothered to look at, so far, at least.

Staying with India, very few know that SunTechnics India, a brand of Conergy Group, a leading supplier of solar system integration, completed the design and installation of India's first green housing project facilitated with building-integrated solar power.

The 58 kilowatt project was developed in partnership with the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) as an initiative in solar architecture for the Rabi Rashmi Abasan eco-friendly housing complex at New Town Kolkata, of all places! Power will be fed into the public grid and facilitate electricity needs for 25 residential buildings and a community center.

If anyone has any doubts about the scope and power of solar or BIPV, take a look at Nanomarkets' report, which predicts that the market for BIPV will reach over $4.0 billion in revenues by 2013 and surpass $8 billion in 2015.

Late last month, I had written about certain steps Karnataka and the other states could adopt as part of a semicon policy.

Do include BIPV in your plans!

Actually, BIPV is very much part of the Indian semicon policy as well. West Bengal is probably the first state to have successfully implemented BIPV in a project. Congratulations are due!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied

Solar/PV is perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing, contends Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India. Alternatively, another way to enter this field could be by having solar farms.

According to Dr. Atre, India has a strong potential for manufacturing. The Indian scenario has the talent pool and an emerging middle class, along with the presence of system design and chip design companies. Only a fab seems to be the missing piece from this ecosystem!

Benefits of a fab include: fuels economic productivity, contributes to GDP and adds to national growth, creates jobs, helps set up the other expertise necessary for an ecosystem, and closes the loop between market, design, manufacture, test, customer.

Indian fab scenario
Commenting on the Indian scenario, Dr. Atre, says: "For PV, about $200-500mn is needed for a fab. If we can enter into manufacturing via the solar/PV route, the scale of investment required would be much less [than the investment needed for a wafer IC fab]. This can be practical route to enter manufacturing in India, and less complexity is involved, as compared to an IC fab." Another way of entering manufacturing is by having solar farms.

Applied's external face in India involves: Take leadership role in industry bodies; work with the government on various semiconductor and manufacturing policies; look for potential investments in start-ups; work with the academia on collaborative research in nanomanufacturing; be sponsors in key conferences; drive corporate social responsibility programs; and help enable semiconductor and solar manufacturing in India.

Touching on some emerging areas of interest, Dr. Atre highlights that packaging is very important in semiconductors. "We may look at some company in packaging R&D. We have invested a bit in Tessolve," he says. "We would also like to see the success of the nanotech lab in IIT-Mumbai, and see how it can help India." On a global scale, he notes that Applied would be setting up two-three SunFab lines with Masdar in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Applied Materials in India
Headquartered in Bangalore, Applied has been present in the country for over five years. It has approximately 1,500 employees and associates. A liaison office was originally set up in May 2002. Applied Materials India Pvt Ltd (AMIPL) was set up in July 2003, and operations started in November 2003 with cost + model. It consolidated all Applied operations in Bangalore into ITPL (~92,000sqft). It also merged Brooks Chennai (~100RFTs) into Applied India operations. Applied currently has R&D centers in Bangalore and Chennai.

Next, Applied established site operations in Delhi (~5000 sqft) to support Moser Baer. Its key partners are Satyam, Wipro and TCS, on various aspects of engineering and software services. In Delhi, Applied has 25-30 people to support Moser Baer, where it has the first SunFab line up and running.

In Mumbai, it has set up a nanomanufacturing lab with IIT-Mumbai. "We have put in equipment worth $7-8 million there, and do R&D projects," adds Dr. Atre. The nano lab at IIT-Mumbai was inaugurated in November 2007 by Mike Splinter, president and CEO, Applied Materials.

Applied is also involved in the potential upgrade of SCL. "We are working with some other companies on how we can upgrade SCL. We are more at the backend to set up some capabilities," he says.

Applied Ventures makes investment in emerging technologies and companies. It has funded a couple of companies in the semi start-up stage. Applied Ventures looks at global investments.

Moser Baer is Applied's first customer in India. It has a 35-40MW assembly line. This is the first time that 5+m2 solar panels will be coming out. The panel will now have to be taken up to the production ramp. Dr. Atre adds that Europe was much advanced in solar/PV. Germany, especially, was far advanced in the implementation aspect, as well as Italy and Spain.

Nanomanufacturing simplified
Nannomanufacturing, as per Wikipedia, is "the near-term industrial-scale manufacture of nanotechnology-based objects, with emphasis on low cost and reliability." To manufacture at this level requires a lot of expertise, skills, etc., says Dr. Atre. Cost is definitely an important driver, and so is reliability, he adds. According to him, nanomanufacturing technology combines the two core strengths of Applied: nano + manufacturing.

Applied's vision has been to apply nanomanufacturing technology to improve the way people live. Its mission: To lead the Nanomanufacturing technology revolution with innovations that transform markets, create opportunities, and offer a cleaner, brighter future to people around the world.

Applied Materials is a global leader in nanomanufacturing technology solutions with a broad portfolio of innovative equipment, service and software products for fabrication of: semiconductor chips, flat panel displays (using TFTs), solar photovoltaic cells and modules (in crystalline and thin film vectors), flexible electronics, and energy efficient glass (BIPV). The last three categories fall under EE or the Environment and Energy Division.

Dr. Atre says: "We have the SunFab line for solar/PV. In flexible electronics, as an example, you can have solar cells wrapped around an object." As for energy-efficient glass, you can save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics.

Core capabilities
Applied's core capabilities include: commercialize sophisticated systems and thin-film engineering, besides a global culture. "Our technological strengths include semiconductors, solar/PV cells and FPDs. We have nanomanufacturing technology as the common theme." Touching on the loss per watt, he says it is currently around $14, which needs to come down to at least $2 or one-fourth.

Applied makes systems used to produce virtually every new microchip in the world, taking care of thermal, etching, inspection, PVD, CVD and CMP. For LCD flat panel display systems, Applied offers a variety of systems, such as PECVD systems, e-beam array testers, PVD systems and color filter sputtering systems.

The processing panels can be up to 2.2x2.5 meters. For solar manufacturing, Applied offers crystalline silicon, flexible PV and thin-film line, or the Applied SunFab lines. For architectural glass and flexible electronics, it offers both glass and Web coating systems.

"We have three key businesses, silicon systems, displays and energy and environmental solutions," said Dr. Atre. These are supported by Applied Global Services.

Applied's goals for 2010 include: Expanded revenue streams, to become a $13-15 billion company; increased operating efficiency, with margins >25 percent, and increased cash flow, about >20 percent of revenue.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Semicon is no longer business as usual!

The Global Semiconductor Monthly Report June 2008 from Future Horizons, states: Let the market beware; it is no longer business as usual!

I would completely agree! For instance, the industry has since long moved to fabless, and now, fabless firms are ranking among the very best. Or, even from 130nm to 22nm process nodes, or from 180mm fabs to 450mm fabs!! Fair enough?

Coming back to the industry trends, Malcom Penn, CEO, Future Horizons, says that compared with March, the IC units were up and ASPs were down in April, even after adjusting for March being a five-week month. The net result was a 7.7 percent revenue decline! Does this spell more bad news for the beleaguered chip market?

Certainly, this seems to be the industry consensus view. Always the contrarian, Future Horizons' views are different. Here's how! April's results came in exactly as expected. Also, the unit rise and fall was simply the result of the engrained 'making the quarterly number' mentality!

Digging beneath the layers reveals a set of market fundamentals that are in remarkably strong form. The penny may not yet have dropped to the table, but, even for the chip industry ever full of surprises, let the market beware; it is no longer business as usual.

Penn says: To paraphrase the late Sir Winston Churchill's comments on Russia, "The chip industry too is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma". It marches to its own complex interwoven pattern of rules, each relatively simple when viewed in isolation, but contriving to interact in a volatile and unique way. Right now, the industry is at its most confused [state] for a decade, battered by a barrage of uncertainties and contradictions. Shell-shocked and confused, confidence is off the agenda … just when what is needed most is cool heads and determination."

Be it falling cap ex, tight capacity, focus on profits, continuing strong market demand, second half seasonal effects, according to him, the forecast tea leaves all seem to be pointing in the same positive direction. Has the worm finally turned then for the industry? He thinks so! Future Horizons also thinks that the "penny has yet to drop and that the impact on the market will be seismic and dramatic".

Earlier, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reported that worldwide sales of semiconductors of $21.8 billion in May were 7.5 percent higher than the $20.3 billion reported for May 2007, reflecting continued strong sales of consumer electronic products. May sales were 2.8 percent higher than the $21.2 billion reported for April 2008.

Do bear in mind that May is historically a strong month for semiconductor sales, as per SIA.

NAND strong minus Apple effect
DRAMeXchange has indicated in its monthly review on the DRAM segment that the NAND Flash prices are likely to gradually stabilize after mid-July pushing by lower price, new demand from 3G iPhone, smart phones and low-cost PCs.

Elsewhere, as reported by Semiconductor International, according to Semico, NAND unit shipments are likely to cross over 3.5 billion units in 2008 as against 2.5 billion units in 2007, leading to a year-over-year growth of 35 percent.

However, reflecting the memory segment's ASP (average selling price) crunch, NAND revenues will grow 13 percent in 2008, down compared to 25 percent in 2007." Semico has said that the NAND industry will record a growth year in 2008, without experiencing what it has called the 'Apple effect'.

Heartening solar initiatives
The one heartening thing to note has been the various solar related initiatives that have taken place over the past month (actually, for over the year!). In fact, iSuppli has probably been spot on while analyzing that investments in solar and semiconductors could be on par by 2010!

SVTC Technologies, an independent semiconductor process-development foundry, announced that its SVTC Solar business unit has launched the Silicon Valley Photovoltaic Development Center in San Jose. Canadian Solar and LDK Solar signing a new agreement for an additional 800MW of solar wafers, besides LDK updating on its polysilicon plant in China.

National Semiconductors also entered the PV market with its SolarMagic technology that maximizes solar energy production. Evergreen Solar, a maker of solar power panels with its proprietary, low-cost String Ribbon wafer technology, signed two new long-term sales contracts. Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co. Ltd and IBM are also collaborating to establish new, low-cost methods for developing the next generation of solar energy products.

Not be left behind, Intel too is spinning off key assets of a start-up business effort inside Intel's New Business Initiatives group to form an independent firm called SpectraWatt.

In India, solar has been making rapid strides, especially at the Fab City in Hyderabad. There is a possibility of something similar happening in Karnataka state as well.

Indeed, semiconductors are no longer business as usual! Right?