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IC design looks promising for Romania

Posted: 07 Apr 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:core product design? Sycon Design? Silicon Valley? custom IC developer?

eSilicon Corp. inherited an 8-person design team in Bucharest, Romania through the 2004 acquisition of Sycon Design, a Silicon Valley firm.

Today, the Romanian operation employs 25, is doing core product design and has brought substantial operational cost advantages to eSilicon.

"I was surprised to find it less expensive to operate in Romania than in India, Malaysia or China," said Hugh Durdan, VP of marketing for eSilicon, a custom IC developer. "It's been a big advantage for us."

India gets all the press, but Romania is preferable for chip design for several reasons, he said.

Advantages include good physical infrastructure, integration into the European Union, low employee turnover and English speaking engineers. Romania is also geographically positioned to serve European customers.

"For design, proximity to the customer is most important," he said.

The Romanian team does core product design in collaboration with the US operation. One example is their involvement in a 65nm network processing chip for a European customer.

Talent pool discovered
Romania's low-cost IC design talent is quickly being discovered. Chip companies Infineon and Microchip Technology run R&D operations and Siemens VDO (now Continental) designs automotive electronics in the country.

Romania's average net wage is perhaps the lowest in the EU and has increased at a relatively slow rate, from $193 in 2002 to $519 this year, according to Romania's National Forecast Commission. (This year's figure, however, represents a 13 percent year-on-year increase).

By comparison, the average net wage in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland is above $1,100.

ESilicon has also moved some administrative functions such as purchase order processing to Romania. Management plans to expand Romanian staff this year, but Durdan declined to give specifics.

The country's low wages have caused the workforce to migrate in search of higher paying jobs and a labor shortage exists in some areas. eSilicon, however, has been able to find engineers with 3-5 years experience. "At the level we've been hiring, we've had no difficulty finding the employees we want," Durdan said.

Retaining engineers hasn't been a problem, as the team lost only one person in four years, he added.

- Drew Wilson
EE Times Europe

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