close
Thursday April 18, 2024

Pakistan plans to develop ‘chip design cluster’ to enter global semiconductor industry

The global semiconductor market, currently valued at approximately $425 billion annually, is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030

By News Desk
March 31, 2024
This photo taken on March 22, 2024, shows semiconductor products displayed during the SEMICON China semiconductor exhibition in Shanghai. — AFP
This photo taken on March 22, 2024, shows semiconductor products displayed during the SEMICON China semiconductor exhibition in Shanghai. — AFP 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government is developing a strategy to export integrated circuit (IC) design services, aiming to boost the skills of students and young professionals and generate foreign exchange by entering the global semiconductor industry, a government official said.

Semiconductors, also known as “chips,” are vital electronic components underpinning nearly all technological applications, significantly influencing regional, national and global industry development, economic performance and growth, as outlined in the Pakistan National Semiconductor Plan.

The global semiconductor market, currently valued at approximately $425 billion annually, is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.

Chips are integral to a wide array of downstream equipment and devices, such as smartphones, cars and medical devices. The market for chip-incorporating equipment is estimated to be at least $4 trillion annually, yet Pakistan’s share is less than $50 million.

“We have been working on a plan to develop an IC design cluster in Pakistan through training of students and young professionals,” Aisha Humera Moriani, additional secretary at Pakistan’s information technology and telecom ministry, told Arab News.

She said the ministry was working to boost the IC design skills through public-private partnership, following a push from the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid forum to fix the country’s ailing economy.

“We want to export our IC design services to the world at the first stage to earn foreign exchange and create more job opportunities for the youth,” she added.

Moriani explained that Pakistan was not planning IC manufacturing at this stage since this was a “resource extensive” task, though “in the longer run we would want to set up IC manufacturing foundry with foreign investment.”

The global semiconductor industry is dominated by companies from the United States, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Japan while Pakistani universities and the private sector have been looking for government support to enter the market.

“Pakistan’s share in the global semiconductor industry is negligible at the moment as we lack government support, funds and the required human resource training,” Dr. Saad Ahmed Qazi, dean of the electrical and computer engineering faculty at Karachi’s NED University, told Arab News.

“The government should at least provide software for the training of relevant students to each university that can cost up to $50,000 each,” Qazi, who is one of the authors of Pakistan National Semiconductor Plan, 2022, said.

He informed there were three crucial parts of the IC, including designing on specific software, manufacturing and verification and testing.

“The designing and testing are cost effective processes and Pakistan can make a difference with a little initial investment of around $250 million,” he continued.

“The IC manufacturing is a resource extensive job as one has to set up a foundry for it, so Pakistan could enter into it at a later stage,” he explained, adding that some public and private universities, including NUST, FAST, LUMS and NED, were already working on the IC design in their respective faculties along with the students.

“We also need to improve our quality of education, especially in the fields of electrical, computer and electronics engineering, to produce skilled professionals for the sophisticated technology,” he said.

Qazi said three major companies, including DreamBig, Nunami and Xcelerium, had recently opened their design centers in Pakistan to export the services. “The government should provide conducive environment for foreign investments to increase the number of IC design companies,” he added.