Semiconductor industry can thrive underrobust network
The Union government targets to attract Rs 18,000 crore investments (2021–22) in the electronics manufacturing segment.
India’s National Policy on Electronics (NPE) 2019 aims for the electronics industry to achieve a turnover of about Rs 33 lakh crore by 2025. But the industry is critically dependent on semiconductors, which are also used in high-demand consumer electronics like mobile phones, laptops, gaming consoles, refrigerators and microwaves. These use semiconductor components like integrated chips, diodes and transistors. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, India is among the largest consumers of electronics products and has the third largest start-up hub in electronics.
The Union government targets to attract Rs 18,000 crore investments (2021–22) in the electronics manufacturing segment. This has seen an increasing inflow from companies like Intel and C4V, a lithium-ion cell manufacturer in the USA. However, a lot more needs to be done to achieve such an ambitious turnover target. The Russia-Ukraine conflict served as a lesson. We need to be robust on the industry-supporting infrastructure front, so the supply chains are not disturbed.
The conflict impacted the supply of neon and hexafluorobutadiene gases. These gases are essential for manufacturing semiconductor chips used in the lithography processes for chip production, and Russia and Ukraine are the major sources of these gases. India has taken steps to minimise the impact, but these are largely disconnected from each other. These include the Vedanta-Foxconn investment in Gujarat (much to the chagrin of Maharashtra, which had first set its eyes on it) to set up a semiconductor manufacturing plant. At the same time, an Israeli firm, Tower Semiconductor, and ISMC Digital, announced a $3 billion investment in Karnataka, where Mysuru has been declared a semiconductor cluster.
But what is needed is a network of institutions researching and developing the semiconductor industry along the lines of what has taken root in the USA. The Ohio State University is setting up a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary education and research centre—Centre for Advanced Semiconductor Fabrication Research and Education (CAFE)— to advance the fabrication and development of semiconductors and next-generation device technologies. Intel has announced a $3 million funding award for CAFE over three years. India needs a similar network which can provide a stable research base and explore alternatives in case of global upheavals. The demand for electronics goods in India will only increase in the coming years, and we cannot afford to miss the bus