Vinod Dham, who was born in Pune, went on to become famous for being the “Father of the Pentium Chip.” At the age of 21, Vinod received his engineering degree, and the following year, he started working for Teradyne Semiconductor, which was India’s only semiconductor manufacturer at the time. The city of New Delhi was home to the company’s headquarters. After living in Mexico for the previous four years, he moved to the United States in 1975 with only $8 in his pocket. After that, there was no going back to the previous state. Vinod went on to become a semiconductor engineer and was a contributor to the development of the first flash memory chip produced by Intel. He also continued to lead Intel’s microprocessor programmes, which included the production of the Pentium chip, which helped propel Intel to the position of being the largest chipmaker in the world. Vinod later became a member of NexGen as well as Advanced Micro Devices. After some time, he changed careers and became a venture capitalist, first working for NewPath Ventures and then moving on to NEA-IndoUs Ventures.

The semiconductor industry is not only one of the most essential and important manufacturing sectors in the world, but it is also one of the largest manufacturing industries in the world. As a result of its role in the revolutions in personal computers, mobile communications, and the Internet that have taken place over the past three decades, it is now prepared to permeate every aspect of our lives. In addition, the percentage of silicon found in electronic systems has been steadily climbing with each new generation. This trend is expected to continue.

The semiconductor sector, on the other hand, is experiencing major shifts at the moment. After travelling in the same direction for the previous 35 years, we have now arrived at the beginning of a new era in the semiconductor industry. In the previous twenty years, projections of the CMOS scaling limits have been made, and then those projections have been defeated multiple times. However, as we move forward to 90 nanometer and beyond, the technological problems that start to emerge are so significant that, despite the fact that innovation will continue to find a way to solve those problems, the economics of the cost to scale below 90 nanometer is beginning to exceed the potential benefit of Moore’s law. This is the case even though innovation will continue to find a way to solve those problems. Because of this, the number of manufacturers who can produce cutting-edge chips with a resolution of 65 nm or below will be reduced to a select few.

In the future, only the applications with the biggest volume will be able to afford the rising costs and risks associated with leading-edge design since it will be prohibitively expensive. Chip designers will steer clear of the leading edge unless there is an essential requirement for performance. The majority of semiconductor consumption over the next ten years will be concentrated on the optimal design node of 90 nanometers, particularly in the price-sensitive growing Asian countries of China and India.

The shift in wafer size from 200 millimetres to 300 millimetres and the subsequent reduction in die size as a result of the shift from 130 nanometers to 90 nanometers will result in significant increases in the total number of chips. In addition, it is anticipated that chip production in China will climb by forty percent yearly, which is far faster than the ten percent growth rate that is typical for the rest of the globe. In the grand scheme of things, the combination of this capacity expansion and a slowing of the treadmill of technology migration will result in a perfect storm.

The low cost of capital required to manufacture mature semiconductor technologies will stimulate the growth of specialty designs, which will lead to the creation of inexpensive differentiated consumer products. These products will be designed to fulfil the increasing demands of one billion Asian consumers. It is anticipated that consumption of semiconductors will continue to shift away from the Americas and towards the Asia-Pacific region as a result of the rapid growth of economies in Asia. Due to the fact that these customers have various financial capabilities, they will want a wide variety of functionalities and levels of pricing performance, which will result in the requirement of additional designs.

The issue for the semiconductor industry is to grasp the dynamics of this mass market, which will involve moving the mindset from selling chips to selling applications. In order to do this, the industry will need to shift its focus from selling chips to selling apps. In the consumer business, where the focus is on value rather than technology, it’s possible that a different strategy may be required to provide the same level of satisfaction for customers. The consumer sector is distinguished by its rapid product life cycles, in addition to its highly segmented and individualised goods and services.

Despite the fact that the devices that combine entertainment, mobile communications, and computing are emerging as likely engines for the industry’s near-term growth, there are a number of emerging areas that are primed to benefit from the maturing semiconductor life cycle. Some of these emerging areas include healthcare, energy, and security. The accelerated pace of biotechnology development, which is led by the use of powerful and mature IT technologies that are favourable demographics of the ageing population in both Europe and the United States, will create further opportunities for the design of shrinking semiconductor chips, which will be referred to as “Bio Chips,” for the healthcare industry. The amount of oil and gas that we have available is rapidly diminishing. Because of the expansion of economies in Asia, our need for energy will soon outpace our ability to develop new applications and utilisation of alternative energy sources at prices that are accessible. Because India receives a great deal of sunlight, innovative “solar cell” designs and advancements could be of particular importance to the country. The dangers posed by terrorist organisations have elevated the need of maintaining security. In a wide variety of fields, including biometrics, which develops safeguards for protecting our water and food supplies, to the embedding of low cost semiconductor sensors in intelligent dust, an enormous amount of brand new designs and applications are required. This is true for both of these fields. This trend will speed up and expand more in the next millennium as the semiconductor gadgets become more widely available and become ingrained in every aspect of our life in order to make us more productive, safer, and live longer.

The sourcing of semiconductor chip designs and the services related to those designs will be profoundly affected by these trends. India and China, both of which have relatively cheap production costs, will benefit the most from the sourcing of these requirements. The integration of intellectual property from a variety of sources, such as customers, sellers, and third parties, in order to produce system level solutions on a single piece of silicon will become increasingly popular. As a consequence of this, the industry will progressively need to concentrate more on transitioning away from pure components and towards platforms. Platforms are application-specific standard products that are programmable for a subset of high-volume applications. Platforms can be used for a variety of different purposes. This is already beginning to happen with the cell phone platform in China, which is delivered by the ODMs and uses standard off-the-shelf, high volume standard semiconductors that are customised through software. This is happening with the cell phone platform in China because it is delivered by the ODMs.

In India, the activity of chip design has surged over the past five years, and over the next decade, a core competency in chip design will be formed, similar to how it has now in the field of information technology software. India needs to get themselves ready in order to capitalise on the growing need for chip design over the next ten years. At the Bachelor’s degree level, our engineering programmes need to incorporate significant amounts of preparatory coursework on very large scale integration (VLSI) technology and design. There is a potential for training schools to educate engineers on design tools and techniques in a manner comparable to what NIIT achieved for the information technology software business. Because Indian engineers are so skilled in both architecture and software development, we ought to support the development of intellectual property and cross licencing. In this advanced environment for semiconductors, the software will be more valuable than the silicon itself. India is in an excellent position to make use of its preeminent status in the software industry as a tactical tool in order to construct a massive chip design franchise.

Because of the growing emphasis placed on portability and connectivity, there is a pressing demand for the delivery of very low power chip designs to satisfy the requirements of newly emerging consumer markets. At 90 nanometers and above, this is an extremely difficult challenge. The leakage of the transistors has increased by several orders of magnitude, which necessitates the development of new low power architectures and power management approaches in order to solve this crucial problem.

The price of building a brand-new, state-of-the-art fab is spiralling out of control. A fabrication facility with a capacity to process one thousand wafers per day can currently be constructed for between $3 and $4 billion dollars. At 90 nanometers and beyond, the technologies are also growing more expensive as a result of the requirement for enormous breakthroughs in both the materials and equipment used to achieve the desired scaling. New techniques are being developed to improve performance, such as “straining” the lattice silicon to increase the mobility of charge carriers, high-k gate dielectrics, metal gate electrodes, and fully depleted silicon-on-insulators. These improvements are being made in an effort to wring incremental performance from these technologies. Gordon Moore, in a famous keynote speech he delivered at the 2003 International Solid-State Circuits Conference, stated that “many of the exponential trends are approaching limits that require new means for circumvention if we are to continue the historic rate of progress.” Moore made these remarks in reference to the fact that “many of the exponential trends are approaching limits that require new means for circumvention.” We have reached a situation where only a very small percentage of businesses are able to construct their own factories. Because foundries are able to fill their fabs with goods designed by a variety of different designers, they may have an advantage over captive fabs that is inherent to their business model. For their operations to be more efficient, captive fabs demand ever-increasing quantities of increasingly rare components. The supply chain for semiconductors will be forced to disintegrate even further as a result of this. As a result of this shift to a new paradigm, Wafer Foundries and their clients are developing increasingly tight and cooperative working relationships. The chip design sector in India has to cultivate better ties with the big foundries located in Asia. These collaborations are required as a result of cutting-edge technologies, which demand closer collaboration between the design and production processes in order to successfully deliver the final product.

In the coming decade, the landscape of the semiconductor business will be moulded by a variety of different scenarios that converge on one another. In the increasingly mature environment of the semiconductor industry, where revenue growth appears to be slowing at the same time that new, more fundamental technological barriers and the financial challenges of developing shrinking geometries are rapidly escalating, we will face formidable challenges.
Vinod Dham, often known as the Father of the Pentium, has spent the past three decades working in the semiconductor sector. After having a lot of success at Intel and AMD, he went on to become the CEO of a startup called Silicon Spice, which was eventually purchased by Broadcom. Dham is one of the co-founders as well as the Managing Partner of New Path Ventures. The company’s mission is to establish cutting-edge technology businesses by capitalising on India’s capabilities in terms of cost-effective development and execution.

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