In alignment with trends across various sectors, semiconductor firms are vigorously exploring AI-powered solutions to refine operations and boost productivity. A notable development in this domain is the recent collaboration between Cadence and Renesas. In a conversation with DIGITIMES Asia, Jayashankar Narayanankutty, the Group Director of Cadence Design Systems, explained that this alliance is poised to influence every developmental initiative embarked upon in India.
"In AI, we've approached development uniquely," Narayanankutty said. "People often forget that in AI, to attain a level of intelligence, the amount of data you need to handle increases exponentially as complexity rises. So, we first built a big data platform, which we call JedAI, to denote Joint Enterprise Data AI. That was the foundation."
The company initially addressed the most formidable challenges, focusing on the arrangement and routing of transistors at the minutest scales, such as two, five, and seven nanometers, referring to this initiative as Cerebrus. They then tackled the subsequent major challenge: debugging, as discerning the specifics and locations of errors during simulations occupies 70 percent of the time. Intelligent solutions were integrated at this juncture to significantly reduce the time dedicated to debugging.
"The third major challenge we addressed was ensuring clean design," Narayanankutty added. "Product specs are initially written in natural language by someone from Product Marketing. These specs are then transcribed by architects for various stakeholders, including silicon architects, design verification teams, implementation teams, and fabrication teams. However, information often gets lost at each step. To resolve this, we initiated a pilot with Renesas, utilizing a large language model to interpret the written specs and communicate the intent clearly to all stakeholders, identifying any mismatches or misalignments. This approach is set to impact all aspects of our design, ensuring cleanliness and adherence to the intended specs at every stage."
Presence in India
In India, Cadence maintains a substantial presence with a staffing level of around 3000 individuals. The organization's strategy, characterized by a strong emphasis on analytical and mathematical methodologies, seamlessly integrates with its global operational blueprint.
"We are working on the leading edge of technology, managing large projects and playing at the architectural level of our next products," Narayanankutty said. "India is a critical part of our IoT strategy, both in development and deployment, as 20 percent of the world's electronics are designed out of India, making 20 percent of Cadence's customers based here. We are contributing to the development and deployment of intelligent system design and the design of intelligence in India."
Working with the government in India
The government of India is making significant strides towards becoming a key player in the semiconductor industry. Historically, in 1999, the government of India initiated a special manpower development program aimed at training engineers in VLSI and electronics across 19 specific institutions.
"We have partnered with the government since then to ensure our commercial software is available in these institutions, expanding to around 120 colleges in the latest round," Narayanankutty said. "This program, currently called 'Chips to Startup', allows us to collaborate closely with the government of India, providing our commercial software at minimal cost to accredited training institutions."
Parallelly, the company has been involved with various finishing schools and training institutes to help graduate engineers upskill, reskill, and acquire lateral skills. This addresses the manpower aspect.
"Regarding the local ecosystem, since 2006, we've seen a surge in startups, with engineers and engineering managers wanting to contribute their products and intellectual property blocks," Narayanankutty added. "We've been nurturing this talent and product mindset, focusing on working with around 30 startups in India."
Recent studies indicate that India utilizes semiconductors valued at $28 billion. Of this amount, approximately 10 percent is designed, assembled, and produced within the country, with the remainder imported as components of pre-assembled systems. Consequently, while India represents a significant market in terms of consumption, a minimal proportion originates from local production.
"Logically speaking, it seems that we should have something in semiconductor manufacturing in the 28 to 40 range, which aligns with what the government also suggests," Narayanankutty said. "On the design side, I believe we have the best talent, especially considering the demographic value. The engineers working today will continue working on such technologies for the next 25 years. I don't think there's any other place across the globe that has the kind of talent, intensity, and density of talent that we have in India."
Initiatives from companies such as Cadence are crucial in propelling India's semiconductor sector forward, impacting a wide range of developments. By concentrating on innovative AI solutions and tackling intricate design challenges, these companies are aligning with the abundant talent and expanding ecosystem in India. These collective efforts aim to harness India's potential, establishing it as a significant contributor in the global semiconductor arena, driving innovation, and boosting the industry's overall productivity and efficiency.