Indian analog wafer fab plan stuck in neutral
The Indian government made a call for expressions of interest (EoI) in chip manufacturing in India at the beginning of 2021. The Ministry of Electronics and IT reportedly received applications from 20 top companies after it floated the EoI to gauge the interest of companies willing to set up semiconductor plants in the country.
Tower Semiconductor is a technology partner in a consortium floated by Abu Dhabi-based Next Orbit Ventures, which pitched to build a $3 billion analog 65nm wafer fab in Dholera, in Gujarat, the report states.
Tower was linked to Next Orbit Ventures back in 2017 when there was a plan to finance three wafer fabs in India. One focused on digital, one on analog and the third on solar cell production (see VC wants to reboot Indian wafer fab plans).
Now Tower has fired off a letter to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention because of a lack of activity, according to an Economic Times report. The company reportedly wrote to say that any further delay from the government’s side means that it will be unable to stay active in the project.
Next: Been there, not done that
This is a familiar story with previous projects over the decades failing due to a combination of lack of government subsidy and bureaucratic slowness.
Tower itself has been trying to open up chip manufacturing in India since 2012. Back then Tower was in a consortium with IBM and Indian infrastructure conglomerate Jai Prakash Associates. Jai Prakash was to supply the cash; IBM was to supply the process technology; and Tower would have provided foundry management.
But despite that failure Tower CEO Russell Ellwanger has remained eager to engage with India. In an interview with eeNews Europe back in 2017 Ellwanger said India would eventually get a domestic chip manufacturing industry (see India will get chip industry, says Tower CEO).
Tower was approached for a comment on the latest developments and responded by email. “We have various activities in India. At this point none of them is binding nor material for the company and therefore no public information is being provided by the company,” the spokesperson wrote.
Nonetheless this is the latest in a series of plans that have, so far, failed to materialize, the previous one being given the name Cricket Semiconductor (see Slow India may lose Cricket wafer fab).
India’s best hope may come from a home-grown technology-based company taking the initiative and beginning chip manufacturing. This is something the Tata Group has said it wants to do.
Related links and articles:
VC wants to reboot Indian wafer fab plans
Tata plans to make semiconductors in India
India will get chip industry, says Tower CEO
CEO interview: Specialty foundry Tower gains momentum
Slow India may lose Cricket wafer fab