Sarawak to produce its own integrated chips

KUCHING: Sarawak will produce its own integrated chips through partnership with a Belgium-based global supplier of micro-electronic semiconductor solutions.

This follows the launch of Sarawak Microelectronic Design Semiconductor (SMD Semiconductor) and its signing of a framework service agreement with Melexis Technologies at Tegas Digital Village here on Nov 9.The signatories were SMD Semiconductor chief executive officer (CEO) Shariman Jamil and Melexis Technologies CEO Marc Biron.

The event came less than four months after Sarawak Education, Innovation and Talent Development Ministry inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Melexis in Belgium on July 26.

The MoU entailed cooperation in integrated chips design and semi-conductor talent development as part of Sarawak’s innovation and talent development programme.

Melexis Technologies is already part of the existing XFab chips foundry at Samajaya Free Industrial Zone, Kuching that produces chips for a wide range of applications, including in automobiles.

Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the framework service agreement marks the beginning of a robust collaboration between the Sarawak government and Melexis in semiconductor and chip design, and signified the state’s commitment to sustainable global partnership.

“It will continue to be an important industry that will transform and push Sarawak towards a sustainable environment and high-value economy,” he added.

Johari said the Sarawak government and Melexis have established a good relationship since 2015 and their ties have become increasingly important due to Melexis’s increased investment in Sarawak and the semiconductor industry development in recent years.

Melexis is planning to double its production capacity at the Samajaya manufacturing facility by 2025.

“I hope that through our collaboration and partnership, Sarawak will further add value and resources to your expansion plans. Sarawak shall create an ideal ecosystem to position itself as a primary destination for the semiconductor industry and solutions provider for semiconductor technology.

“Our strategy is to work closely with industries and stakeholders to commit to high value-added activities by integrating key industries 4.0 technologies into their manufacturing and supply chain operations to improve labour productivity growth, increase innovation capacity, create high-skilled jobs and enhance local industries’ ecosystem.

“This strategy will be supported by key levers, such as robust policies and procedures to ensure integrity, transparency and good governance that will improve the ease of doing business in addition to funding, infrastructure and connectivity, and a sufficient pool of talents to ensure success,” he added.Johari welcomed Melexis to partner with technical institutions and universities in Sarawak to shape a new curriculum in semiconductors for undergraduates and post-graduates and industry certifications to enable the young graduates to acquire the necessary skills to be semiconductor professionals.

The industry-academia platform, he said, could also promote industry-driven research collaboration in areas relevant to the semiconductor industry.

“Semiconductors play a key role in clean energy by enabling clean, renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency.Semiconductor materials are the basis for solar electric energy system.

“Semiconductor devices are also used to condition power from solar arrays and wind turbines, so the energy can be used by electric equipment and fed onto the electric grid.

“Semiconductors are increasingly important in making electric grid more intelligent, for example, through smart meters, sensors, wireless and wireline communications, and control systems.

“The intelligence system enables the electric utilities to detect faults, manage the power demand when capacity is constrained or costly, and integrate renewable and distributed power sources into the grid more easily,” he said.Johari noted that the semiconductor industry has shifted production above the pre-Covid 19 pandemic level to meet a sudden surge in chip demand.

Based on “The Global Chip Shortage Report 2021” by Bank Negara, Europe is targeting to hit 20% market share in global chip production in 10 years,and China is investing US$1.4 trillion (RM6.5 trillion) in semicondcutors to be a global leader in key technology.Intel is now investing US$20bil (RM93bil) to produce chips for others and Taiwan Semiconductors Manufacturing company will spend US$100bil (RM463bil) for the next three years to fund expansion.

Johari said chipmarkers like Melexis would need to boost its production capacity to meet the increasing demand from the automotive industry, which has been adversely affected by semiconductor shortage caused by the pandemic.

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