Materials engineering solutions for the AI era is our primary aim: Srinivas Satya, President & MD, Applied Materials India

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March 3, 2021 2:50 AM

Among all the emerging technology megatrends, AI, in particular, has major implications for the electronics and semiconductor ecosystem. AI will move us from an application-centric world to a data-first model where almost all data will be generated by machines.

The dependency between the global economy and technology is greater today.

Applied Materials, the Santa Clara, California-based semiconductor and materials engineering firm, believes that the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the data economy are fueling a new era of growth for chipmakers and the semiconductor equipment industry. “While consumer devices drove electronics demand over the past decade, non-discretionary commercial investments in IoT, Big Data, AI and 5G infrastructure are poised to lead the next decade,” says Srinivas Satya, president & MD, Applied Materials India, in an interview with Sudhir Chowdhary. Excerpts:

How is Applied Materials via its semiconductor innovations laying the ground for mainstreaming of technologies such as 5G, IoT and automation?
Among all the emerging technology megatrends, AI in particular has major implications for the electronics and semiconductor ecosystem. AI will move us from an application-centric world to a data-first model where almost all data will be generated by machines. Thus the industry’s growth will not be limited by the ability of humans to create or consume data.

In order to make sense of the massive volumes of available data, a new approach to computing is needed—one that is based on workload-specific hardware built from customised and entirely new types of chips. And while AI has the ability to bring many benefits, it also consumes an increasing amount of power. This places a huge imperative on the industry to deliver major improvements in the performance-per-watt of computing solutions.

At Applied Materials, we have aligned our strategy and investments around this vision of the future. We are focused on delivering materials engineering solutions that improve the performance, power, area, cost and time-to-market (PPACt) of semiconductor devices for the AI era.

Due to AI and the data economy, there is growth in demand for semiconductor equipment. Which industries are driving this demand and how does the nature of demand differ between industries?
The dependency between the global economy and technology is greater today. This is creating robust demand for semiconductors and semiconductor equipment. Several major technology inflections are accelerating as work-from-home, home schooling and online retail drive significant investments in cloud data centres and communications infrastructure.

The digital transformation of companies and the economy as a whole is also broadening the long-term growth drivers for the semiconductor industry. While consumer devices drove electronics demand over the past decade, non-discretionary commercial investments in IoT, Big Data, AI and 5G infrastructure are poised to lead the next decade.

With Moore’s law growing obsolete, is there a new law the industry is looking at to ensure continuous improvement?
At a time when the need for semiconductor innovation has never been greater, the traditional driver of chip technology progress—classic Moore’s Law scaling— has run out of steam. As a result, the semiconductor industry is adopting a new playbook for delivering the required improvements in PPACt needed to unlock the potential of IoT, Big Data and AI.

This new PPACt playbook includes five key elements: new semiconductor architectures, 3D structures, novel materials, new ways to shrink chips and new ways to connect individual chips together with advanced packaging. Applied Materials is positioned to accelerate the new PPACt playbook with the largest portfolio of technologies to create, shape, modify, analyse and connect chip structures and devices.

The demand for AI-dedicated chips has grown significantly. What are you doing to meet this growing demand?
The breadth of Applied’s portfolio allows us to combine technologies in innovative new ways and enable the breakthroughs in PPACt needed to unlock the potential of AI. In addition to advancements in our traditional unit process systems, we are bringing to market new products called Integrated Materials Solutions. These can combine multiple technologies in a single system to help customers create new types of semiconductor devices and structures. Recently we introduced an Integrated Materials Solution for selective tungsten deposition that removes a major bottleneck to continued scaling of transistors in advanced foundry-logic nodes.

How does the company fit into India’s push to establish itself as an electronics manufacturing hub?
The Indian electronics sector is witnessing tremendous growth, as demand is poised to exceed $400 billion by 2023-24. Domestic production has grown from $29 billion in 2014-15 to nearly $70 billion in 2019-20 (CAGR of 25%). The government has unveiled three schemes with an outlay of Rs 48,000 crore to promote electronics manufacturing. Just as the government seeks to enable development through ‘Making India Atmanirbhar in electronics’ initiative, we look to encourage partnerships across different industry sectors.

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