Why Singapore is favourite for semiconductor research
Siew Kiang Ng, Executive Director, Contact Singapore talks to Electronics Weekly about the country’s semiconductor industry and why nine of the top 10 fabless semiconductor companies carry out R&D there.
Singapore’s manufacturing output share of global semiconductor revenues has grown steadily over the years. What would you attribute this success to?
Siew Kiang Ng: Today, 1 in 10 of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured in Singapore. I believe the strong ties we have developed with global semiconductor players have contributed to our success. Singapore has a lot to offer companies looking to establish a presence here – a stable political environment, efficient infrastructure, a professional business culture and a pool of highly skilled talent – and these factors help to anchor these players here.
How would you characterise the growth of the country’s electronics design community?
Siew Kiang Ng: In the last four decades, Singapore has developed a pool of highly skilled electronics design engineers that have not only grown in numbers but also in the depth and breadth of their skill sets.
The industry itself is also seeing rapid growth in analogue, mixed-signal and RF electronics, with a focus on communications and power management. This has attracted 9 of the top 10 integrated circuit design companies to carry out research and development activities in Singapore.
What are the opportunities for semiconductor design and manufacturing?
Siew Kiang Ng: We have developed a vertically-integrated semiconductor “eco-system” that encompasses activities from design to fabrication, test and assembly as well as research.
The main opportunities are in research and development in design (analogue/mixed-signal/RF in communications and power management, as well as embedded systems, MEMS and III-V), and manufacturing (advanced packaging, MEMS fab, III-V epitaxy).
These activities are possible because companies can benefit from our strong local IP protection, which is ranked best in Asia, the availability of important skills and Singapore’s proximity to manufacturing locations and access into regional markets.
What are the opportunities for designers in the areas of bioelectronics, green electronics, printed electronics and security technologies?
Siew Kiang Ng: Most of the research in these areas is conducted through our national research institutes, namely the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and our national universities. For example, the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU)’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering School recently repositioned its existing research divisions to form seven major research centres to advance multi-disciplinary research. Some of the key areas of study include bio-imaging, bio-instrumentations, nanotechnologies, energy efficient buildings, amongst others.
With the electronics industry predicted to grow this year, what will be the manpower requirements of local companies to support their expanding design and manufacturing activities?
Siew Kiang Ng: The growth forecasts for Singapore’s electronics industry has been promising. I believe we will see companies, both local and international, stepping up hiring and increasing their engineering resources. They will be looking for new graduates as well as experienced, highly-qualified industry experts who are looking to develop their skills further in frontiers driven by high technology and intensive research.
Which skill-sets are likely to be most in demand in the local electronics industry this year?
Siew Kiang Ng: We see that those with skill-sets in analogue/mixed-signal/RF, embedded systems, process development for advanced wafer fabrication. MEMS and III-V semiconductor technologies would be highly sought after.
Is language an issue to be considered when working as an engineer in Singapore?
Siew Kiang Ng: Not at all, as long as you can speak English. English is the language used for business and education in Singapore. Being able to speak an Asian language may also be an advantage as the industry services a regional, and often, global, market.
How would you describe the lifestyle benefits of working in Singapore?
Siew Kiang Ng: There are lots of benefits to working in Singapore. We have been ranked as Asia’s most competitive city and third globally according to an Economist Intelligence Unit report in March 2012. We’ve also retained our No.1 ranking for offering the best quality of living in Asia, as well as the most popular place in Asia and third most popular place worldwide to relocate to over the last five years.
In terms of personal safety, we’ve been rated the top country in Asia-Pacific and eighth worldwide. There are many lifestyle options for people in all stages of their lives. For young professionals, we have a very rich and lively arts and entertainment scene. For those with children, we have excellent educational and healthcare systems that make it affordable and comfortable to raise a family here.