News Article

Designing The Future

In the first of an ongoing series that will look at the strengths of geographic regions around the world Anand K. Sethi of New Delhi looks at the emerging Indian design market. He looks at the industry growth in the area and the developing commercial connection to Europe.

India`s prowess in the Software field has for some years now been internationally recognised and lauded in the print as well as the Electronic Media. Over the past several months, similar media attention has been focussed on India`s rapidly growing Biotechnology and Bioinformatics sector. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, the international as well as domestic media and the electronics community at large seems to have missed out on another Indian success story - the rapid emergence of India as a chip design superpower!

Leveraging India`s acknowledged I.T. skills and its reservoir of competitively salaried, highly qualified, English speaking, diligent Engineers and Scientists, the chip design business in India has grown from virtually nothing to an impressive annual turnover estimated to be about $300 million in just a few years, with an annual growth rate of over 30%. Such has been the rapid progress in this sector that Indian entities are now delivering `State of the Art` complex System on Chip (SOC) designs. Frost & Sullivan, the market research specialists, in a recent report estimated that Indian entities exported $60 million worth of SOC designs in the year 2000 and that by the year 2003 this figure should rise to around $185 million. With increasing International recognition of India`s competence in SOC designing as also the need to save costs by outsourcing, it is the SOC design area which appears set to become the principal area of activity.

What is particularly significant is that this rapid growth in the chip and SOC design business has come about without the presence in India of any modern IC. wafer fabs or foundries. Although India was one of the first countries outside of the U.S. and West Europe to start wafer fab activities as early as 1971 for high performance Silicon Epitaxial Transistors and TTL as well as Linear Amplifier type ICs; due to the quirks of the socialistic pattern of Governmental licensing and controls, the domestic market in India could never provide large enough volumes for wafer fab activities to be viable. On the other hand, value added semiconductor work for exports was for many years perceived by the Government as cheap labour exploitation and hence high volumes that could have been leveraged by export oriented semiconductor assembly work completely bypassed India to go to the more welcoming environs of Countries in the Far East.

It was Texas Instruments (TI) that pioneered the IC design business in India by establishing in 1985 an export oriented unit in Bangalore and arguably starting that city`s high tech boom. However the real boost to Indian Chip designing came only as recently as 1995 when ST (SGS-Thomson) Microelectronics set up a major design facility in NOIDA just outside of Delhi. Today this facility, which is the single largest design facility in the ST Group outside Europe, employs more than 600 design and systems engineers. An additional building on an adjacent piece of land is now being completed to be able to house the rapidly increasing numbers of engineers. By the Year 2004 ST`s NOIDA facility is expected to have a staff strength of 1500.

As a major ST Intellectual Property (IP) factory, ST at NOIDA, with a deep involvement in the area of superintegration, is a powerful, virtual manufacturing machine providing a wide spectrum of IP products for System on Chip(SOC) designs for the global market. ST, NOIDA provides various building blocks which include Foundation, Standard and Core IP`s. Foundation IP`s in the form of libraries include Standard Cells, I/O Cells, Mixed Analog Cells and Memories, and services are available for such key technologies as CMOS, BiCMOS and Non Volatile with expertise available down to 0.12 micron levels. Standard re-usable IPs using various technologies are developed principally for the digital video and audio markets. Core IPs are designed and developed for microprocessors and for ST`s peripherals libraries intended for superintegration products for specific users. In addition to the Core IP`s, full product design and layout including system application design, is carried out for telecom, consumer and computer peripherals markets. In the memory segment ST NOIDA is a fundamental contributor in the research and development of FPGAs.

Today there are at least 70 companies (See attached list) of a significant size engaged in Chip/SOC designing in India. Over 50 of these are located in the garden city of Bangalore, India`s high tech Capital. Many world leaders including to name a few, National Semiconductor (NS), Sage, Motorola, Sanyo-LSI, Lucent, Analog Devices (AD), Alliance Semiconductor, Zilog/Qualcore, Cypress, Cadence, Cirrus Logic etc., now have large Chip/SOC design operations in India. In a major move, Intel has in the last few days announced plans to expand their Intel India Development Centre (IIDC) in Bangalore with an investment of $25 million to reach an estimated staff strength of some 1500 engineers up from 600 currently. The IIDC`s focus areas includes Chip Designing. Their Control Plane Processing Division is working on architecture definition, silicon design, pre and post silicon validation, logic synthesis, layout verification as well as test vector development for production.

Whilst undoubtedly most companies have a US link, the European majors, ST Microelectronics, Philips, and Infineon do have significant Indian design operations. Also, ARM of Cambridge, U.K. is associated with the Indian Company, Wipro Ltd., and the very first design centre outside of the U.K. has been established in Bangalore under the ARM Technology Access Program (ATAP).

There are several Indian owned entities that do outsourced as well as Intellectual Property (IP) core chip designing. Some of these Companies belong to successful professionals from amongst the Indian diaspora in California`s Silicon Valley and act as delivery centres with front ending in the US. These companies specialise in providing end-to-end IP solutions, integration of existing IP into systems, and reusable ASICs designed with latest process technology.

Most interestingly, in sharp contrast to the criticism provoked by the Indian Software industry`s lack of developing any significant numbers of products with IP the chip design business in India has been eminently successful in delivering substantial numbers of finished products and IP. TI, for instance has already done several full product developments including a world beating Digital Signal Processor (DSP) called ANKUR as well as its next generation derivative. TI is also developing DSP SOCs for controls, as well as audio and video functionality for Broadband Communications and 3G communications.

The National Semiconductor facility has turned out several Super IO`s and Video Processors wholly developed in India. It is now delivering designs for deep sub-micron (0.15/0.18) digital VLSI SOC`s for the advanced Communications market. The Analog Devices, India Product Development Centre has specialised in designing 32 bit Floating Point Digital Signal Processors up to 10 GFLOP for the world`s leading audio and communication system manufacturer. Philips in India concentrates on digital CMOS libraries and trimedia DSP chips.

The Delhi based and Indian owned DCM Data Systems has developed many IP cores for PC bus applications and is licensing these to companies in the US and Japan. Armedia Labs/Broadcom has developed a RISC based decoder for Digital TV and has found a sizeable international market whilst Sage Design Systems has made some unique designs for LCD monitor controllers.

Close on the heels of the establishment in India of the several IC design entities has been the setting up of facilities and design centres in the Country by the world`s leading Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tool companies. Cadence has set up a centre in Bangalore as well as a Cadence-Tality operation in NOIDA (near Delhi). Synopsys has a design operation in Bangalore whereas Mentor Graphics have a development centre in Hyderabad. A recent study indicates that Indian Chip design firms alone buy annually about $35 million worth of tools across all platforms and segments. Indications are that India is the world`s fastest growing market for EDA. As against a Year 2000 growth rate of about 25% in the Asia-Pacific region, 13% in Europe and 6% in North America, India registered a growth rate exceeding 130% perhaps underlining the importance of India in the Chip design business.

Over 5000 VLSI Engineers, Software Engineers, System and Complexity Engineers, many with PhD`s or other advanced educational qualifications are already working in India`s Chip design business. A few hundred others qualify each year from leading educational institutes such as the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (with programmes supported by the likes of AD and Philips), the Indian Institute of Science- Bangalore and the Pune based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). A few of the Software training institutes in India, recognising the business potential, have started basic courses covering Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), ASIC and CMOS VLSI design, CPLD Logic devices etc.

The Chip design companies however complain that the numbers of fresh design Engineers being qualified each year are not adequate and to tide over the shortage have resorted to providing chip design training to Electronic Engineers who have some basic design knowledge. There is therefore an obvious need to establish and popularise IC design training in a much broader spectrum of tertiary level Indian Engineering and Science Colleges. With imported standard EDA and VLSI tools being very expensive in India an excellent opportunity exists for European companies to promote their design suites which will allow engineers to develop, for example, in simple `C` language and migrate the designs directly onto FPGA. Other low cost design suites such as GDSII based Layout editors also have substantial potential in the Indian market. Recognising the importance of 'seeding' the Indian market with EDA tools. Synopsys for example has provided front end ED tools to 19 Universities and Colleges in India at highly discounted rates.

Addressing the concerns of the IC design industry with reference to IP and design protection, the Ministry of Information Technology (recently re-designated as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology) of the Government of India sponsored through Parliament the passing of the " Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act 2000" (SICLDA 2000). This Act fulfils India`s obligations under the WTO related Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This act provides for:

Protection of IC layout and designs through a stipulated 'Registration Process".

A mechanism for distinguishing which layout designs may be provided protection.

Clearly stipulated rules to prohibit registration of layouts and designs that are not original and/or have had a process of commercial exploitation.

A ten year period of protection for layout and designs.

Provisions regarding infringement and evidence of validity.

Payments of royalties for registered layout designs and provisions for determining royalty payments for unintentional infringements.

Penalties, including imprisonment / heavy financial fines for wilful infringements.

Appointment of a registrar for registering layout designs.

Establishment of an appellate board .

Full details may be obtained from the following websites relating to SICLDA 2000 (

) and the associated rules.

These governmental changes assist in the future development of the Indian industry and provide protection for the local markets as well as overseas investors.


Accel Technologies Ltd.

Alliance Semiconductor India Pvt. Ltd.

Analog Devices India Ltd.

Aplion Networks India Ltd.

Arcus Technology Pvt. Ltd.

Artech Information Systems Pvt. Ltd.

ATI Research Silicon Valley Ltd.

Bi Square Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

Bitmapper Integration Technologies


Cadence Design Systems

Celox Networks India Pvt. Ltd.

Centillium India Pvt. Ltd.

Chip Engines India Pvt. Ltd.

Chip Logic India Pvt. Ltd.

CG-CoreEl Logic Systems Ltd.

Cisco Systems India Pvt. Ltd.

CMOS Chips Pvt. Ltd.

Cirrus Logic Software India Pvt. Ltd.

Cherrysoft Bharat Ltd.

ControlNet India Pvt. Ltd.


D`Gipro Systems Pvt. Ltd.

DCM Data Systems Ltd.

Delsoft India Ltd.

e-Infochips Ltd.

Embedded Wireless Ltd.


Future Techno Designs Pvt. Ltd.

GE India Design Center

GPS Usha Pvt. Ltd.

HCL Technologies India Pvt. Ltd.

IBM Global Services India Pvt. Ltd.

Ikos India Pvt. Ltd.

Infineon Technologies( Siemens Semi)


Interra Software India Pvt. Ltd.

Invensys India Pvt. Ltd.

Ishoni Networks

Ittiam Systems India

Lara Networks

Lucent Technologies India Ltd.

Maxim Integrated Products

Mentor Graphics India Ltd.

MOSChip Semiconductor Technology


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