VLSI Chip Design Market And Career Opportunities

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Please Shed Some Light On The VLSI Chip Design Market In India.
The VLSI has always been the key technology since its inception. There are chips (Integrated Circuits) everywhere - wearable devices, electronics, bulbs, ACs, phones, cars, etc. With IoT, AI, 5G, and autonomous cars, all these present a huge opportunity for professionals to upskill them-selves in VLSI space and semiconductors. The growth rate globally has not been affected and there has been a global shortage of chips in the world due to which de-livery of electronics and cars are getting delayed. Hence, there is a huge potential for companies and people to actually move into this sector and upskill themselves, and make a career in this sector. There are several companies in India working in VLSI design space, but the amount of talent we have in India is minuscule.

I will give you an example: according to a Deloitte study, between 1970 and 2013, the amount of electronic systems in a car has gone up significantly and a lot of systems in a car such as anti-locking braking system, transmission control for an automatic vehicle, throttle control systems etc. are powered by chips. Just from the automotive sector, there's a huge amount of growth and usage of chips. Consumer electronics, industrial electronics, AI, 5G, and autonomous cars are the sectors which will generate the maximum revenue worldwide. We will always need a good engineer so there's always demand for good engineers in this area. We have launched a program in VLSI and this is first of its kind and very unique program in India and we are open for admissions.

There are a large number of companies including MNCs present in India roughly around 50 companies out of which 30 are MNCs like Texas Instruments, Intel, Broadcom, NVIDIA in Bangalore. Then around 15-16 would be on the service side and few startups. For example, TCS and Wipro provide manpower in the various segments. Two or three decades back, the companies who had a large amount of money were able to sustain themselves as they used to have their foundries such as Texas Instruments, Intel.. However, due to the exponential growth of third-party fabrication facilities such as TSMC, Global Founderies, several fabless companies have emerged such as Qualcomm. Also, it has encouraged the startup culture in the VLSI design space.

Which Are The Top Skills Required To Become A VLSI Design Professional?
The VLSI design courses are part of the advanced curriculum in the Electronic engineering stream. Most of the workforce in the companies comes from EE and ECE engineering backgrounds. The other engineering branches, such as computer science, are also hired but very limited and could play roles on the architecture or CAD tools side. In the VLSI design, there are two main verticals: Digital Design and Analog Design. There are many areas in each vertical, where people can join as per their inter-est. For ex: In Digital Design, there are various roles such as RTL Designer, Verification Engineer, DFT (Design For Test), and Physical Design Engineer. Similarly, in Ana-log Design, typical roles are Circuit Design engineers and Layout Engineers. There are many sub-verticals in each domain, and based on individual interests and skillsets; one can join this area.

The increasing demand for AI-based applications is creating new demand for semiconductor companies. AI will also bring improvements in the semiconductor market by expediting the manufacturing process, enhancing performance of the chip, reducing the cost of production, and increasing output.

To enter in to VLSI design area, a person needs to have really strong fundamentals, at least a subset of the below areas:

Device physics, Basic circuit/network theory, Foundation of Digital and Analog circuits, Control theory, FPGA design, Advanced Digital system design, Advanced Ana-log Circuit Design.

In this course, we will cover almost all the above topics, and this could be a unique program where the focus is on the VLSI design. Also, it could be used as a bootstrap program in the VLSI companies for their new hires.

Do You See A Talent Gap In The Industry? How Can It Be Addressed?
The trained professionals are lacking in the VLSI industry as most of the workforce joins just after their undergraduate studies. The constant complaint from the industry is the lack of specialized training because there are a lot of tools and technology involved, which are very expensive and can not be afforded by most colleges. There is hardly much focus in VLSI training at the undergraduate level. India is such a big country, but we have only few institutes that can offer good training in this domain such as IISc, IITs & NITs IITs and NITs comprise only five to six percent of engineers. Companies are finding it very difficult to hire trained fresh graduates in this industry.

To fill this gap, this program has been developed to help professionals. The focus of this program is mainly on the VLSI design, which is what most of the VLSI companies need. In fact, it could be used as a bootstrap program in the VLSI companies for their new hires. The focus would be on design fundamentals from device physics to building ana log and digital systems on a chip. The entire focus is on the design and that's what makes it unique.

Can You Let Our Readers Know The Recent Trends That Will Shape The Future Of The Semi-Conductor Technology LandScape?
The increasing demand for AI-based applications is creating new demand for semiconductor companies. AI will also bring improvements in the semiconductor market by expediting the manufacturing process, enhancing performance of the chip, reducing the cost of production, and increasing output. As more IoT/Edge computing products will enter the market, the demand for semiconductor chips will witness a rise. The rise of the IoT semiconductor market is broad and touches most industry segments, including industrial, automotive, energy and utilities, and healthcare.

Also, 5G technology will create a huge impact on the global semiconductor industry. The 5G chipset allows faster flow and processing of information than 4G. Semiconductors will be accomplishing new specifications in the new ecosystem. Autonomous vehicles will also boost the semiconductor industry in a big way. The rapidly growing automotive market presents a huge opportunity for automotive semiconductors to support battery performance in EVs, enhanced sensors, increased connectivity, and other technologies. There are several emerging devices based on 2D materials and Gallium Nitride. How-ever, It is still difficult to replace silicon-based technology because the silicon industry is very big and companies have invested billions and trillions of dollars in the last few decades. So we cannot replace that completely but the new technologies will find some niche applications.

What Advice Would You Like To Give To All Those Candi-Dates, Who Are Looking To Build A Career In Vlsi Chip Design? How Does A Course In VLSI Chip Design Add Value?
There is a huge opportunity for professionals looking to pursue a career in VLSI chip design. With the adoption of IoT, 5G, AI and autonomous vehicles, the demand for professionals in this sector will see a surge in the coming years. We have launched a program with Talent Sprint - PG Level Advanced Certification Program in VLSI Chip De-sign which is a six-month program designed for industry professionals keen to design future-ready chips with capabilities that can power new age technologies such as AI, IoT, VR, Mobility, Cloud and Analytics. The program is designed to build strong foundations on advanced digital, analog and emerging technologies combined with mentored practice on industry relevant capstone projects, using best-in-class VLSI tools and boards. Delivered through live interactive online classes by leading faculty from the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering (DESE) at IISc, the program will enable participants to learn hands-on and practice on industry projects using state-of-the-art VLSI tools and boards.

How Has The Pandemic Affected The Semiconductor Industry?
Yes, the pandemic has affected the industry. Semiconductor companies are struggling to overcome this crisis while faced with challenges such as reduced demand, monetary losses, more stringent workforce safety requirements, and dynamic consumer behavior. The automobile companies are seeing a tough time due to the shortage of chips which has resulted in delay in the delivery of vehicles. A common component across cars, electronic goods, medical devices, and smart appliances is the chip which is the basis of all modern electronic equipment. But the chip shortage today has a lot to do with the pandemic and it has affected the consumers.

It's a complete ecosystem with a lot of subsidiary companies and it is a huge industry because many a time you only see foundry but foundry needs a lot of components from other industries. The industry is affected but I think it is still beating up. The industry doesn't have enough trained manpower that is required. But in terms of our education field, the pandemic has affected a bit because physically working on a circuit is a bit of a problem but VLSI tools are so good that we can cover most of the things through assimilation. I'm personally teaching a course and it's completely online, but I think people are not complaining much. You can work on the FPGA boards and most of the things can be done with the tools. So the pandemic has mainly affected the supply side and not the design aspect. The designers are still working on the design and they are still coming up with new architectures.