SilTerra’s VP of Strategic Management, Mr. Tan Eng Tong, was recently invited to address a group of MBA students at the Putra Business School in a talk entitled ‘Semiconductors as a Driver of Innovation in Today’s Economies’ in which he explains why the ability to design new chips drives true innovation.
Malaysia has been in the forefront of E&E in Asia since early 1970’s, before Taiwan, China and even Korea had their own electronics industry. He pointed out that major MNCs like Intel, Motorola and others had opened their factories in the Penang Free Trade Zone and other locations in Malaysia then. Today, each of those countries are powerhouses of innovation, churning out world class products while Malaysia is still making products for MNCs.
The main reason for this he pointed out, is the recognition and emphasis on innovation in those economies, coming up with new product ideas driven by the need to be unique and different. Ideas cannot be much ‘new and different’ if one’s products are designed and built using chips that everyone also uses. “Products are new and unique because no one else can buy those chips to make the same thing you developed – you created them yourself, hence they are not available to others. That requires chip design as well as chip fabrication capabilities, also known as semiconductor fabs,”says Mr. Tan.
SilTerra, he explained, was opened in 2001 to spur the high-tech ecosystem to fill in the missing piece of Malaysia’s supply chain. Already well known around the world as an E&E hub, the Malaysian ecosystem had all the supply chain elements from product development, test and assembly, components subassembly, tools, and a myriad of suppliers capable of producing all manner of products from networking, computing, consumer and automotive electronics, healthcare, industrial, automation and so on. The country even had semiconductor fabs from multinational companies, but they only produce for their own use; none for local innovators intending to enter the global arena.
Mr. Tan said today SilTerra has been producing advanced chips for global customers for applications in consumer and computer markets, sensor technologies, ultra-high speed photonics chips and for DNA-sequencing chips used in medical diagnostics. These global customers comprising research institutes and startup companies have recognized SilTerra’s capabilities and have come to Kulim to have their chips manufactured.
In responding to a question from the audience, Mr. Tan explained the reason for not shifting towards advanced technology nodes such as 2nm and 3nm technologies is because these technologies require more advanced tools and a huge capital expenditure in excess of USD$10 billion. Rather than do that, SilTerra has been focusing on extending its existing core capabilities towards More-than-Moore technologies. These are more appropriate for the development of silicon photonics chips for ultra-high speed applications to support 5G; MEMS for applications in life sciences; and a very wide range of sensors which will be needed for the emerging IOT application space.
This talk was a virtual session organized and attended by over 60 participants from the Putra Business School, a leading business school in Malaysia founded on the principle of Human Governance and accredited by AACSB and ABEST21.