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From volume to value: Singapore electronics industry matures

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Singapore? higher value-added activities? R&D?

Infineon's Microelectronics Design Centre is the key R&D hub for IC concept, design, test, application and system development. The centre uses the needs of customers as the starting point for designing products with "better performance, better integration of functionalities, and faster design in." Some of the products initially produced in Singapore are subsequently transferred to its other sites.

Taking the lead in developing products for global markets, the centre designs 8bit, 16bit and 32bit MCUs, power IC, authentication IC, and applies system and engineering know-how to develop energy efficient solutions for automotive and industrial applications. "We are also widening the scope of collaborations with local universities and research institutes [in areas including] advance manufacturing and supply chain," added Chong.

Hand in hand to growth

Chandran Nair

Nair: Singapore has successfully created a fertile ground for high value-added product strategies.

From a test equipment vendor's perspective, an economy's movement up the value chain is in itself an advantage. A lively R&D landscape is "good for us as our technologies are used by scientists and engineers...developing high value-added product strategies that accelerate productivity, innovation and discovery," said Chandran Nair, managing director for National Instruments Southeast Asia, in an email exchange with EE Times Asia.

NI's best interest lies in making a success of higher value activities. Part of the company's strategy is fostering collaborations to drive innovation and create business opportunities. "Over the years, we have been increasing our collaboration with customers in the manufacturing sector and the academic and research community to promote a culture of innovation and a more vibrant environment for R&D," Nair told us.

Last month, the company partnered with Intel and NXP on a programme that aims to develop technology capabilities in emerging areas in electronics including M2M solutions, smart lighting and NFC. The companies will supervise local SMEs' development projects supported by SPRING's Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT).

Through PACT, NI is giving SMEs access to its Alliance Network Programa global network of over 700 companies pooling their know-hows and products to provide a comprehensive solution ranging from products and system integration, to consulting and training services.

PACT is an opportunity to "empower SMEs with the technology platform and knowledge to overcome technical complexity in order to bridge the gap between vision and reality, and bring their ideas into fruition," said Nair.

Behind the R&D wave

While partnerships and collaboration have done well in driving high value-added activities, it was the government that has made Singapore's evolution into an innovation centre possible, as both Infineon and NI said. In 2010, the government launched its "Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2015" plan, run by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

The plan covers some $13 billion investments in R&D for a five-year period from 2011 to 2015. The amount accounts for a 20 per cent increase in R&D budget over the previous period, 2006 to 2010. The investment aligns well with the aim of making Singapore one of the most research-intensive countries in the world. The investments have also been instrumental in bringing together the worlds of industry and academia.

A*STAR has signed an increasing number of collaboration agreements with other national R&D agencies, universities, institutions and the private sector, which it courses through the Institute of Microelectronics (IME). In July, IME and its industry partners established four joint laboratoriesthe Advanced Semiconductor Joint Labsto develop and advance semiconductor technologies for future electronics markets (see Semicon R&D joint labs to advance future electronics).

The labs will undertake the development of next-generation technologies of coater/developer, wafer bonder for 3D packaging, and acceleration of time-to-market and reduction of manufacturing costs to meet the demanding technological needs of the fast growing semiconductor ecosystem.

Apart from joint labs, IME also works closely with various organisations on a one-to-one basis or through consortia to address challenges that the semiconductor industry faces, according to an A*STAR spokesperson. One consortium saw the enlistment of Synopsys to accelerate market adoption of TSI technology, driven by strong demands in computer infrastructure and consumer electronics.

Another consortium was launched to tackle copper interconnects reliability issues, targeting the improvement of the reliability of semiconductor devices by tackling copper wire bonding issues related to corrosion and stress.

A*STAR's role in moving Singapore's electronics industry up the value chain has been as a "neutral integrator," taking leadership in the administration of partnerships and collaborations so that Singapore can derive synergy from its R&D investment, according to A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh.

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