1. Wafer fabs are notoriously hard to set up and run: Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-bu Tan

Wafer fabs are notoriously hard to set up and run: Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-bu Tan

Cadence Design Systems — a major player in the electronic design industry — this year will celebrate 30 years in India. It was among the first MNC (second after Texas Instruments in 1985) to set up an R&D lab in Noida.

By: | Published: October 5, 2017 3:25 AM
LIP-BU TAN, LIP-BU TAN interview, interview of LIP-BU TAN Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-bu Tan.

Cadence Design Systems — a major player in the electronic design industry — this year will celebrate 30 years in India. It was among the first MNC (second after Texas Instruments in 1985) to set up an R&D lab in Noida. Since then, the lab has grown in strength, and is now doing innovative work that are helping power the devices we use in our daily lives. The company’s president and CEO, Lip-Bu Tan, has seen the changes in the semiconductor ecosystem in India up close. According to him, there have been several proposals to open fabs in India, but none has taken off yet. “The Indian semiconductor industry has established itself in IP, design services, and R&D. Now Indian companies are capable and confident of building products locally, and there are several companies that have forayed into product realisation. These are all steps in the right direction,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:

Cadence is one of the earliest to set up an R&D presence in India along with Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics. Tell us something about this journey.

Cadence set up an R&D facility in Noida back in 1987 when it was Gateway Design Automation. Since then, we have expanded to Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad. We currently have nearly 2,000 employees in India working on cutting-edge design for chips,

IC packaging, and electronic boards. This is over one third of all Cadence employees worldwide. The research teams based out of India have been instrumental in helping Cadence develop some of the latest innovations that the company has introduced.

Electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM) is being talked about a lot nowadays. What are your thoughts about local ESDM?

India is known for its exemplary work in R&D. However, the local ESDM industry has yet to take off in a big way. Given the talent in the country, there is lot of scope to replicate the success that we have seen with software and services start-ups.

The Indian government has introduced several initiatives such as Make in India, the Electronics Policy, Digital India, Smart Cities, etc. to provide an impetus to the nascent electronics industry. The support includes funding, manpower development, electronic manufacturing clusters (EMCs), M-SIPS, and more. Many of these initiatives are in various stages of implementation; we are keen to see the process of implementation accelerated so that the local ESDM sector can really take off.

Large companies like Apple and Foxconn are contemplating to set up manufacturing facilities in India. Do you think this will have a positive effect on companies investing in a wafer fab facility here?

Wafer fabs are notoriously hard to set up and run, requiring huge investments, advanced technical know-how, skilled manpower, a developed ecosystem, and a solid infrastructure backbone — not to mention the business challenge of keeping the fab “fully loaded” in order to be profitable. There have been several proposals for fabs, but none has taken off yet.

The Indian semiconductor industry has established itself in IP, design services, and R&D. Now Indian companies are capable and confident of building products locally, and there are several companies that have forayed into product realisation. These are all steps in the right direction.

One of India’s key strengths has been the large pool of educated and English-speaking talent. What are your thoughts and advice with regards to skilling the employee base?

The large number of English-speaking engineering graduates that India produces has been a core strength. At a national level, the government has launched several initiatives in manpower development, including the Skill India programme and the National Skill Development Mission.

The problem that the semiconductor industry faces is the lack of “design aware” manpower – that is, fresh graduates who are trained in live projects and can ramp up quickly when they join the industry.

There are already several programmes such as the ministry of electronics and information technology’s “Chip-to-Silicon” programme – latest evolution of the Special Manpower Development Program; NETRA (National EDSM Technology Research Academy) which comprises technology research, in-chip programme and leveraging campus start-ups; and incubation centres in Hubli and IIT Hyderabad. More initiatives like these will help the industry gear up for the next technology wave and innovate to add value.

How is Cadence helping its customers design for the next generation of products?

The industry has embraced the paradigm of application-driven system design wherein the end applications drive the requirements of the underlying system and SoCs. Through early and close collaboration with our customers and ecosystem partners, Cadence enables our customers to get new, differentiated products to market much faster. This requires a fundamental understanding of the system design including the impact of critical design decisions on the chips, the packaging for those chips, and the electronic boards that will go into these systems. By providing end-to-end solutions comprised of differentiated design and verification tools, integrated flows, and IP, Cadence helps its customers gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

We are constantly innovating on our tools and IP – and much of this development is done in India, as over one third of our engineering staff is located in India. In addition, our customer support organisation is headquartered in India, providing valuable services to customers around the world.

Are you helping automotive companies design chips and systems for the next generation of vehicles?

Cadence has placed a strong emphasis on delivering automotive design and verification solutions that enable designers to create applications that can make cars safer and more reliable. Our key focus areas include:

o Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), enabling automated parking, lane departure warnings, and other communications.

o Automotive Ethernet to enable high-speed communications within the automobile.

o Infotainment, with IP for audio/voice processing, audio high-fidelity playback

and sound enhancement, noise vibration elimination, radio, Wi-Fi, USB, and Car2X connectivity.

o ECU module design, including mixed-signal subsystem development and integration.

o Functional safety simulation and verification for ISO 26262 compliance, requirement traceability, automated fault injection, fault simulation, fault tracking, and documentation.

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