“The Indian market requires products customized to address the needs of its people and their environment”

Dr. Ajay Kumarjoint secretary, DeitY

Dr. Ajay Kumar
joint secretary, DeitY

June 2013 The National Policy on Electronics is about Electronics System Design and Manufacturing. The financial incentives for electronics manufacturing have focused attention on manufacturing more than on the design and software side of the policy. The design aspect starts from the initial designing of chips, development of embedded software, and includes, board design, product design and any other software integral to the device in question.

We have a strong software industry and we have a large talent pool. Several chip design services companies are already working in India. The Indian market requires products customized to address the needs of its people and their environment. Moreover, affordability is an issue. The prices of devices need to come down. While there are aggressive efforts by industry in certain products, like smart phones, to bring down prices, several other products continue to command huge premium with lack of visible competition.

These devices which have huge premium compared to their bill of material are potential targets for design and development. However development of new products is no easy task. The development costs of chips are increasing and development of a new state-of-the art 20 nm chip may be excess of USD 1 Billion. The development of a reasonably simple System-on-Chip (SoC) may cost a few million dollars. The upfront investments are huge entry barriers for start-ups to get into this arena, especially till such time that a vibrant ecosystem for start-ups is developed in the country. The big software and design companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Tech Mahindra should take the lead in this regard.

Israel, with a population of about 20 million, produces 5000 start ups every year. This is amazing. We could learn a few things from that. While the venture funds proposed under the Electronic Development Fund can facilitate creating a start up culture, a lot more. The good news is that we see signs of this happening as a couple of startups have started development fables design in real earnest and in process of developing their own chips. To encourage fables companies, I propose to invite any fables company developing their own chip to write about it and we will include it in the Electronics e-Newsletter.

Let me also share some other initiatives that are underway from the Government side which will directly or indirectly impact the design side of the National Policy on Electronics.

i. Conditional Access System for Set Top Boxes is being developed with CDAC and industry partner. Initial short listing of companies has been done and the final RfP is likely to be floated within this month.

ii. Proposals have been invited for several medical electronic devices for design and development jointly by research/academic institution and by industry. Meanwhile, digital programmable hearing aid developed by CDAC, Thiruvananthapuram is being put up for transfer of technology.

iii. CAREL products, smart phones, tablets, Set Top Boxes, smart energy meters, smart cards and micro ATMs have been identified for domestic development.

iv. STPI is in process of developing a proposal for creating an incubation centre for fables design and start ups. Proposals from other academic institutions interested in electronics design are welcome.

v. A Centre of Excellence for Large Area Electronics proposed at IIT Kanpur. The concept paper submitted by IIT Kanpur is under consideration of Government.

vi. Another Centre of Excellence for Technologies for Internal Security is proposed at IIT Bombay. The concept paper is under  finalization. A National Workshop is scheduled in July 2013 at Mumbai to discuss and finalize the concept paper.

vii. CDAC is in process of creating a mechanism which would provide easy terms for tape-outs and fabrication of chips being  attempted in India. Discussions for setting up such a mechanism are initiated with UMC, Taiwan.

viii. Special Manpower Development Programme (SMDP) Phase III is under finalization. The programme targeted to development manpower on VLSI, is expanding in scale and scope.

ix. Draft specifications of Aakash IV (low cost tablet) are published on the website for comments and feedback. Based on comments received, these specifications would be finalized.

x. A Venture Fund for fables design companies is proposed to be set up shortly with Government support. There is need for much more focus on the design side of ESDM. It is our strength and can differentiate India from other  countries. We hope to do so in coming months.

Dr. Ajay Kumar is also the chief editor of DietY’s electronic e-newsletter from where this article has been extracted.

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