Intel Loses Randhir Thakur Who Was Leading Its Foundry Foray, Foxconn Ropes In Former TSMC Executive To Drive Its Chipmaking Ambitions

by Swarajya Staff - Nov 23, 2022 03:24 PM +05:30 IST
Intel Loses Randhir Thakur Who Was Leading Its Foundry Foray, Foxconn Ropes In Former TSMC Executive To Drive Its Chipmaking AmbitionsA Foxconn plant. (Facebook)

Taiwanese electronic manufacturing giant Foxconn has roped in former TSMC executive as a strategy officer to help drive its semiconductor business development.

Chiang Shan-yi, who was a pivotal figure in TSMC's technology advancement, has been hired by Foxconn.

Chiang to play key role in Foxconn's global semiconductor deployment strategy

Chiang, who was once regarded as a potential successor to TSMC founder and former chairman Morris Chang, spent the past few years in China assisting leading Chinese chipmakers SMIC and Wuhan Hongxin Semiconductor Corp.

The former TSMC executive will directly report to Foxconn chairman Young Liu. He will serve as Semiconductor Strategy Officer.

When Foxconn founder Terry Gou stepped down to pursue his political ambition, Young Liu, who was then the general manager of Foxconn's semiconductor unit, succeeded him as the chairman of the conglomerate. He is widely regarded as the semiconductor expert at Foxconn and is counted among the key decision-makers regarding the company's plans for semiconductor fabs.

Incidentally Bob Chen, the president of Foxconn's semiconductor business group, is a former colleague of Chiang's from TSMC.

“Chiang’s rich experience in the semiconductor industry will provide Hon Hai invaluable support for the group’s global semiconductor deployment strategy and technical guidance,” Young Liu said in an official statement released by the company said.

“We are grateful to have such a seasoned semiconductor veteran join us at this important juncture in the group’s development," the Foxconn chairman added.

While Foxconn has been a strong electronic manufacturing services (EMS) business with demonstrated prowess in manufacturing (or rather assembling) products like Apple’s iPhones, Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstations etc, it is now trying to establish its presence in semiconductor space.

India key part of Foxconn's chipmaking plans

In response to rising customer demand, Foxconn, which is the largest supplier of US tech giant Apple, had last year accelerated the pace of its semiconductor capacity deployment.

The company buys chips worth about $60 billion a year, and would focus on making chips used in electric vehicles and electronics, Liu said in August.

Foxconn is planning to build semiconductor in Malaysia and India through its partnerships with local firms.

The company has partnered with Vedanta to set up a chip manufacturing plant in India's Gujarat.

In September, Foxconn and Vedanta signed an agreement with Gujarat government for setting up the chip and display manufacturing facility in the state.

Under the project, Vedanta and Foxconn will invest around Rs 1.54 lakh (about $19.45 billion) crore in Gujarat, which would create 1 lakh job opportunities in the state.

Foxconn expects its efforts in developing microcontrollers, power semiconductors and LiDAR technology are likely to bear fruits within three years.

The company is also planning to launch volume production of chips using mature technology in 2024 and start supplying auto chips to customers in 2025.

Intel's loss, whose gain?

In another development, Randhir Thakur, senior vice president and president of Intel Foundry Services (IFS), has resigned from his position to "pursue opportunities outside the company", The Register reported.

Thakur, who oversaw a key part of Intel's comeback plan via its contract chip manufacturing business, will continue to lead the business unit through the first quarter of 2023 to ensure a smooth transition to a new leader.

The Intel Foundry chief's resignation comes amid announcement by rival TSMC that is is planning to build a 3 nanometer chip manufacturing plant in Arizona alongside its 5 nanometer fab that is slated to open in 2024.

In early 2021, Intel revitalised its contract chip manufacturing business in and renamed it Intel Foundry Services with the goal of competing with TSMC and Samsung, the world's two largest contract chip manufacturers that make chips for the likes of Intel rivals, including AMD, Nvidia, and Apple.

Intel Foundry Services is part of new Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger's plan for the semiconductor giant to double down on manufacturing and surpass TSMC and Samsung in advanced chipmaking by 2025 as part of its so-called IDM 2.0 strategy.

IDM 2.0 is an evolution of Intel's traditional integrated device manufacturing model, where it manufactures chips designed in house.

Intel is expected to get a boost in foundry business through its pending $5.4 billion acquisition of Israeli chip manufacturer Tower Semiconductor, which specialises in making high-value analog semiconductor components for markets such as automotive, medical, industrial, consumer, and aerospace and defense.

Through IFS, Intel aims to become a major provider of US and Europe-based foundry capacity to serve the global demand for semiconductor manufacturing.

While it was clear that Intel wants to compete with Taiwanese contract chip manufacturer TSMC and Samsung for advanced node chip making through IFS, it has so far not very clear if they are also interested in mature node technologies.

Much of the global chip shortage is actually driven by shortage of capacity to make mature node chips.

With the proposed acquisition of Tower, Intel has now unambiguously signalled that it it will get into mature node foundry business. Instead of building the business from scratch, it has taken the acquisition route.

The Tower dea is expected to close in the first quarter in 2023, and it’s one of the main reasons Thakur has agreed to remain the leader of Intel Foundry Services through that period, according to Gelsinger.

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