Mike Holt, vice president of the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association and CEO of the Singapore Microelectronics Incubator Get2Volume, talked to The Saigon Times Daily on the sidelines of the Second Solid-State Systems (4S-2012) organized in Hồ Chí Minh City (HCMC) last week by the Việt Nam National University of HCMC and the Sài Gòn Hi-Tech Park.
What are the needs of the semiconductor industry in Singapore?
The semiconductor industry in Singapore is really a full ecosystem.
All the different pieces of the industry, from fab design, tabs, test assembly, software around it.
The needs in Singapore are always talent – new and talented engineers.
While there is a need, for certain parts of the industry we’re transitioning to what’s called “Making More than Moore” kind of products, meaning not just leading edge technology to drive cost, but things like sensors and mems.
These areas require different levels of package and assembly and test that have a lot more of a stronger human component.
That’s something Việt Nam can contribute to greatly.
It is bringing together those kinds of capabilities where there is not all the automation already established.
Could you be more explicit about the contribution or possible cooperation with the Vietnamese industry?
Again, I think it is about talent in our industry, and the industry as a whole has starved for more talented people.
Talented designers in Việt Nam can contribute a lot.
That’s why foreign companies are setting up design centers here.
Please talk about this.
I know there are many multinational corporations establishing semiconductor design centers in Việt Nam, many of them are Japanese, American companies. And this is something that greatly benefits Singapore firms as well.
Working with Vietnamese design centers is primarily a very valuable contribution.
Of course Intel has established a very large assembly and test plant here.
I’m not talking about that but in other areas where the automation isn’t there because the products require a lot more customization sensors and mems.
These don’t tailor themselves for standard packaging and such mass production.
It requires a lot more people’s involvement to get those products done and that is another area where Việt Nam can greatly contribute, because there are people with those skills that can go in and contribute to this part of the supply chain.
Do you see any cooperation between Singaporean and Vietnamese firms yet?
Yes, there are some.
In our company, for example, we are involved in working with emerging growth companies in the semiconductor space and above, in Singapore and other places like Việt Nam.
So we have been very involved with one Vietnamese company and they bring great skills set in mems assembly, something that we can’t actually get cost-effectiveness in Singapore.
In the semiconductor business it is hard to think regionally.
Semiconductor companies are global from day one.
You must have a global mindset because the talent, the manufacturing, the customers, the partners or the capital can come from very different places.
With this global mindset you are able to bring talented teams, capability manufacturing from Việt Nam to complement what we are doing in Singapore.
Can you name this Vietnamese firm you’re in collaboration with?
Our company is greatly involved in working with semiconductor micro mechanical semiconductors, mems products.
One of these mems companies is located in Việt Nam.
Its name is “Mem Hi Tech”, a HCMC company.
But we have worked with other companies in Việt Nam also, especially in the field of design.
What do you mean by “global mindset”?
Here is an example.
Certainly for big companies it is very clear, but one of our companies (within the Association) is a 25 person company.
This company designs its chips in Australia, manufactures the chips in Taiwan and assembles them in Singapore.
It sells them largely to customers in China.
We have our lead architect driving the definitions of our products in California.
Our CEO is in California.
That is what I mean by “global mindset”.
This is a 25 person company and yet involved everywhere and there is nothing unusual about that.
It is the nature of our industry.
Vietnamese semiconductor companies need to have that same connected and involved global mindset.
There are many overseas Vietnamese working in this sector.
The involvement of partners and companies in other places is significant.
It happens by definition in our industry but being able to foster those relationships in growing the businesses here, I think it is very important.
The semiconductor industry is a global industry.
Every company is global in mindset and capability and so Vietnamese companies need to also have that mindset.
I think you do that by being involved in these other outreach and industry.
What can we do together between Singapore and Vietnam in the future?
There are a lot of things that can happen right away.
Of course Singapore and Việt Nam are very close and so we can bring teams together to execute projects and supply to companies.
The first step to doing that is coordination between the industries.
There is a lot going on between the governments in the semiconductor space, but beyond that we also need collaboration between industry associations.
In Singapore we formed an industry association for semiconductors about seven years ago.
Of course we are very well connected with the other industry associations in the region, but Việt Nam doesn’t have such an industry association yet.
I know people are forming such an association here.
Future collaboration between those groups is a good first step.
That can happen in very easy ways.
It can be just companies having exposure to each other, companies from Singapore attending events like this or visiting companies in Việt Nam, and vice versa.
So that we can learn about the capabilities, the needs of the customers, and then being able to start doing business together and help grow both industries.
If you have a suggestion, what would you like to advise the Vietnamese semiconductor industry to do, besides setting up an association?
That’s really being able to bring together their design centers that are here.
Maybe that implies involvement with other multinational companies.
I know it is happening here, but it would be very interesting to have ties to some Singapore companies.
At these design centers, people can continue to develop skills set based on the involvement from other people outside of Việt Nam and as well contribute to projects that are bigger than those that might happen just here in Việt Nam.
Of course, building that credibility for the industry leads to more capital, more companies, more design centers, and more commitments from other people and that just grows the industry even further.
Then more of the Vietnamese engineers see that this is a good place to work, and more companies see that this is a good industry to build companies in, and continue to build the industry.
Source: The Saigon Times Daily