Calling all with a chip on the shoulder
The Indian semiconductor and embedded design industry clocked revenues of $3.3 billion in 2005 and employed nearly 75,000 people. This is expected to increase to $43 billion in 2015 with employment of more than 780,000. The semiconductor sector encompasses VLSI (very large-scale integration) design, hardware/board design and embedded software development, services that are offered by both captive and non-captive organisations across India.
The driving forces behind this growth are the rapidly growing domestic market, a strong education infrastructure, lower cost of talent, short product lead times, reduced entry barriers, rising government support, and an improving infrastructure.
The ISA-EY Benchmarking Study 2007 puts the semiconductor design sector in India alongside peer countries such as Canada, China, the Czech Republic, India, Israel, Taiwan, the UK and the US. Some of the things that clearly position as India as an attractive design hub are the availability and scalability of talent, quality of talent, quality of technical education, and the cost advantage.
But despite India’s educational network, there is a supply shortage of competent professionals confronting companies seeking to expand semiconductor design activities in India. The pressure on companies to emerge from the skills shortage is high at present, and will only increase with time.
EDA (electronic design automation) companies — into products and services — form the starting block for the VLSI and hardware/ board design market. They are one of the most important links in the semiconductor value chain. EDA companies have taken the lead in India in developing engineering talent for the industry.
Their models can be successfully replicated and scaled up. A structured plan to pro-actively address the workforce shortage at the campus stage itself could be achieved through:
Awareness: Students and placement officers at universities need greater awareness about the sector, its companies, compensation and benefits, thus enabling qualified people to make it the first choice at campuses. This could be through focused visibility programmes and the mass media.
Curriculum update: Industry support in introducing a relevant curriculum at the appropriate stage could help make the industry a viable option.
Centres of excellence: Joint initiatives between the industry and universities to establish centres of excellence for R&D in VLSI engineering, design automation and embedded system engineering, thereby creating intellectual property and raising familiarity among academics.
Faculty sabbaticals: Short-term projects updating of technology awareness for faculty members in specific university departments could bring about specialisation among the academia.
Government: Grants and scholarships to encourage doctoral and postdoctoral research in premier institutes. Support to faculty and researchers to present papers globally and file for patents will be beneficial in the short and long terms.
Industrial training: Project assignments to engineering students for familiarisation with the latest technology will provide hands-on training.
Since this is a niche field that requires expertise not widely available, its employees are in high demand. Growth prospects — in terms of technical knowledge and escalation to higher positions — are among the fastest in the tehnology industries.
The author, a research consultant with India Semiconductor Association, wishes to acknowledge: