Ajit Manocha exclusive: ‘Semiconductors will nearly double in revenue by decade end’

Ritu Jha-

Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI, the global industry association serving the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing and design supply chain, recently hosted India’s communications, electronics and information technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw who was visiting Silicon Valley.

Vaishnaw had a series of meetings with experts from academia, tech firms and organizations in semiconductors, urging to invest in India.

ALSO READ: Vaishnaw’s Silicon Valley visit spurs new conversations on India’s semiconductor march

In recent years, India has shown much interest in fabrication and in becoming a semiconductor hub. Even though India’s semiconductor lab was incepted four decades ago, successive governments had not prioritized the sector.

Manocha, formerly CEO at GlobalFoundries, has served on the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and Global Semiconductor Association (GSA). He has served on President Obama’s committees for “Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships” and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST).

He holds the rare distinction of being inducted into two Halls of Fame. In 2021, VLSIresearch added him to its Semiconductor Industry Hall of Fame for his leadership of SEMI efforts to address geopolitical trade tensions as well as for his initiative in navigating the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting SEMI and the microelectronics industry.

Earlier, in 2020, Manocha was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, and VLSI named him an “All Star of the Semiconductor Industry” for his visionary leadership in 2019 to restructure SEMI to represent the expanded electronics supply chain.

ALSO READ: Purdue University and India in milestone semiconductor alliance; sign partnership in the presence of Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

Manocha’s SEMI office is based in Milpitas office Calif., and connects more than 2,500 member companies and 1.3 million professionals worldwide.

In an exclusive interview with indica, Manocha offered his perspectives on chip interest in India, on the US choosing India over global fab, and if India is really serious about the sector, given China’s dominance.

What was the agenda of the meeting? What does the India government want from SEMI?

SEMI brings people, companies and ecosystems together to connect, collaborate and innovate. SEMI was the host because we connect the semiconductor design and manufacturing supply chain worldwide and have been promoting new business opportunities to our 2,600+ members. We hosted 20+ Silicon Valley execs and the GOI to discuss challenges and opportunities of creating a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in India. SEMI has had a presence in India since 2007, with a long-standing mission to support the Indian advanced manufacturing industry in the global supply chain.

India has been advocating to bring semiconductor fab to India. But these large companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom, depend on foundries – companies like TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Corp). Why would companies shift to India?

It’s not so much companies shifting semiconductor manufacturing to India but expanding there. The semiconductor industry is poised to nearly double in revenue by the end of this decade to support emerging applications with more chip content such as electric vehicles, autonomous machines, smart medical devices, 6G communications, etc. The industry is facing a talent gap as it seeks to expand manufacturing to support this expected growth, opening up opportunities for new locations for semiconductor fabs. India already has a semiconductor industry footprint for software and design, as well as a strong educational foundation for engineering talent. India also offers proximity to other semiconductor hubs in Asia for front-end manufacturing and back-end testing and packaging. Based on this unique opportunity, I feel there is a very strong possibility for India to attract chip manufacturing.

How would you define the Indian semiconductor market? There are a few chip designing companies but do you see a possibility of manufacturing chips in India?

The Indian semiconductor market is on an exponential growth path, partly due to the manufacturing of numerous electronic devices, especially smartphones and the rapidly growing and evolving automotive industry. We all know that semiconductors are central to our lives and virtually every industry depends on them. Additionally, India’s large population (an estimated 1.4 billion) is a huge market for domestic consumption. SCL has had many ups and downs since its inception and also had been a sub-scale fab. I have been very impressed with the capabilities when I started but India lacked the vision and ecosystem to build that into a major industry. However, it has been doing a great job to help support India’s defense industry and has potential for a mega research center. India’s new vision of developing a robust ecosystem will support domestic manufacturing of chips.

What’s your advice to the Indian government, if they are serious to attract semiconductor companies to invest in India?

For many years, I had advised GOI to focus on building the accompanying semiconductor ecosystem before pursuing fabs, and to scale up infrastructure requirements for fabs such as water, energy and transportation. Now, with other countries around the world recognizing the strategic importance of semiconductors to their domestic economy and security, they are offering incentives to attract chip manufacturing, and GOI has stepped up to do the same, in addition to putting the infrastructure pieces in place. Minister Vaishnaw has demonstrated that he is taking a well-organized, methodical approach to listening to industry concerns and taking action that bodes well for the success of the Indian Semiconductor Mission.

Does (SEMI) help India in drafting the IT Bills or advise the government?

Beyond my personal advisory role to GOI, SEMI is working with them to bring our flagship SEMICON exposition and conference – the premier platform for connecting the electronics and semiconductor design and manufacturing supply chains – to India. This represents a key step in bringing our network to India, as well as our programs to support industry growth in areas such as workforce development, technology standards, sustainability and supply chain management.

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