Missing component in the local semiconductor eco-system

An MoU was signed between Silterra and Might Meteor last week. It was basically about kicking off a training program under a wider umbrella of human capital enhancement. Being a part of the training program – and the fact that the MoU ceremony was held during the time I was there (!) – I got the opportunity to meet the top management involved from the two organizations as well as got a special guided tour of Silterra’s fab facilities.

For those who do not know - MIGHT-METEOR was established in February 2002 as a joint-venture company between Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and Multimedia Technology Enhancement Operations (METEOR) – a consortium of 11 public universities in Malaysia. It is directly under PM Ministry.

I have always appreciated the efforts (and the funds) put in by the various government entities to grow and catalyse the semiconductor and other electronics biz in the country – I get a big chunk of my training biz from there! But jokes aside, I have seen a consistent commendable effort being put in this direction over the last few years that I’ve been involved.

The country is more known for the packaging and testing parts of the semicon supply chain. Yes, there are chips and system design houses but their number and biz is smaller compared to the biz brought about the A&T and contract manufacturing facilities. Penang’s Bayan Lepas area is the industrial hub for several big names – Intel, Altera, Agilent, Motorola, Huawei, Fairchild, Renesas and others. Kulim, in the neighbouring state of Kedah is another sprawling area with fabs, A&T as well as offices of contract manufacturing companies like Celestica etc. Capital city KL has a few design houses as well as MIMOS.

During my various stints in the Bayan Lepas complex, I have attended a few IEEE talks too, courtesy the local IEEE chapter. These events mostly lasted no more than a couple of hours, after work, and did attract a decent size crowd – a good platform to share insights as well as network. The local Centre of Excellence in Electronics also holds regular technical talks. Different government-industry-universities consortia exist. Most of the components of a thriving semicon eco-system exist. What is missing though, especially for a country moving to high income, innovation economy is the buzz and the high energy that is usually associated with such an eco-system – making it vibrant. The one thing that intrigues me is that in spite of the ingredients, the region (Penang, Kulim) lacks any big annual semiconductor event. An event where industry/govt/academia leaders can share their insights, members of the eco-system can network, biz mapping be done etc. Neighbouring Singapore (where I am based) has regular shows like SEMICON, CommunicAsia, Electronics Fair, MIDAS Semicon Show (now SSIA semiconductor show) etc.

Would be great to have something on the above lines there….!

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