News Brief

Semicon India Conference 2022: What To Expect Before, During And After?

Swarajya Staff

Apr 19, 2022, 02:01 PM | Updated 02:01 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The conference is a culmination of government effort to reach out to individuals, industries and organisations and elicit interest in India's semiconductor initiatives.
  • The government of India announced the first Semicon India Conference starting on 29 April in Bengaluru. The three-day conference is being organised to take forward the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make India a leader in the electronics manufacturing, semiconductor design, manufacturing and innovation.

    The event comes nearly two and a half months after the government made public the names of the applicants until mid-February for the various options under India's semiconductor incentive schemes with an initial overlay of Rs 76,000 crore (approximately $10 billion).

    As per the agenda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the conference on Friday at 11am with a vision address titled "Design and Manufacture in India, for the World: India as Semiconductor Nation". It is not clear yet if the Prime Minister will attend in person or in a virtual mode.

    Following the Prime Minister's address, there will be a press conference by Cabinet Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Minister of State Rajeev Chandrashekhar. There will be a "Global Vision Address" by Pat Gelsinger (CEO, Intel) and Randhir Thakur (president, Intel Foundry Services).

    The first panel discussion in the conference has invitees from all the three applicants for Silicon CMOS fabs in India — Erez Imberman, vice president of Tower Semiconductors, which is part of ISMC, Raj Kumar from IGSS and a representative from Foxconn. IMEC is an intermediate research organisation based in Belgium.

    In subsequent panel discussions also, there are representatives from companies who have already applied or have shown interest in applying for various schemes — for example, Akarsh Hebbar from Avanstrate, which is a subsidiary of Vedanta (display fab), Harshad Mehta of Silicon Power (Silicon Carbide fab), Raja Manickam of Tata Electronics (Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Testing or OSAT) and so on. There are also sessions focusing on semiconductor design.

    Representatives from leading foundries and integrated device manufacturers like TSMC, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, Micron etc, equipment makers like Applied Materials, LAM as well as members from academia, research and the advisory committee for India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) are also part of various panel discussions.

    It appears that the conference is in some sense a culmination of the efforts that the government had taken over the last many months to reach out to various individuals, industries and organisations to make them interested in India's semiconductor policy and incentives as well as to take up leadership roles in ISM — the nodal agency being set up. It is also happening a few weeks after there has been secretary levels changes at Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

    As per a recent report in Business Today, the government "is in the process of appointing the head of the India Semicon Mission. For this, as sources have revealed, the Indian government has shortlisted around 35 candidates from India and abroad and is interviewing them".

    The outreach to find experts with global experience in the semiconductor domain and to have them take up full-time leadership positions in ISM has been ongoing for three months or more, and some of them — especially NRIs — who politely declined to move to India, could be part of the conference. Similar is the case with companies which the government has been eager to see applying for semiconductor fabs in India, but has so far not confirmed any plans.

    What we will need to see is whether there will be solid developments during, before and after the conference. For example, for the last two-three months, Karnataka has been proactively reaching out to the applicants for various schemes to choose one of the three locations that it has offered for fabs. Given that the conference is organised in Bengaluru, it is possible that the state government as well as the companies may finalise their negotiations and announce outcomes around the conference.

    Perhaps the government also sees the conference as a starting point to restart its efforts to get fresh applicants — applications for compound semiconductor fabs, OSAT, design are open till 1 January 2025. There have been varying reports in the media, some of which are quoted here, about whether all the applications for silicon fabs and display fabs so far will get approved, about the timeline for approvals as well as the possibility of these schemes being reopened for fresh applications.

    One can only hope that while these outreach programmes and efforts to reach out progress on one side, the real work in completing timely review, approval and dispersal of up front incentives to deserving applicants are not delayed either due to lack of manpower and expertise or continued wait for top-most players to apply.

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