Self-Sufficiency in Manufacturing Semiconductors is Critical for India: Top IBM Official

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It is in India’s critical national interest to become self-sufficient in manufacturing semiconductor chips, believes Mukesh Khare, the vice president of hybrid cloud research at IBM.

Semiconductors are at the heart of everything and their necessity is growing at such a large pace that they are now almost as important as electricity. A country like India should reduce its import of semiconductors and start becoming self-sufficient since the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains, he added.

“A country like India must have a very keen strategy, (to) be able to be sufficient, or independent. Basically, with coronavirus, we have seen supply chain disruptions. If you depend on so many different parts of the world, things happen. And if you don’t get your chip, the whole industry shuts down…” Khare said, according to Economic Times.

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IBM is willing to partner with Indian officials in the country’s need to focus on building some aspects of chip infrastructure within the country, he added.

Through the Production LinkedIn Incentive Scheme (PLI), the government has pushed domestic manufacturing in electronics and mobile phones and had earlier invited firms to set up semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Khare, however, refused to comment on whether IBM would look at India as one of its manufacturing destinations in the future.

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On Thursday, IBM unveiled the world’s first chip with 2-nanometre (nm) nanosheet technology, which is projected to achieve 75% lower energy use or 45% higher performance, than today’s most advanced 7-nm node chips.

Khare informed that the 2-nm chip is expected to reach manufacturing supply chains by 2024.

Some amazing progress is expected to be made by the advanced chip. It will quadruple cell phone battery life, and users will be required to charge their devices once every four days, and the carbon footprint of data centres will be significantly slashed, which accounts for 1% of global energy use.

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Laptop functions are expected to speed up, leading to faster processing of applications with faster internet access and language translation. For automakers developing self-driving cars, the 2nm chips are expected to speed up object detection and reaction time.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, the computing requirement is doubling every three and a half months, said Khare.

“That is just an unsustainable need of computing power, and that’s where this chip will be very helpful,” he added.

Khare also said that the discovery process of new drugs would accelerate by 10-20 times due to the new chip, which will help deal with situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That’s where we will start to see the value of this type of innovation… The two critical points are AI and the discovery of new materials, new drugs because those require significant computing capability,” he said.

Developed less than four years after IBM announced its milestone 5nm design, the new 2-nm chip will fit up to 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

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