The government of Pakistan is formulating a strategy to export integrated circuit (IC) design services with the goal of enhancing the expertise of students and young professionals. This initiative is also aimed at generating foreign exchange by venturing into the global semiconductor industry, according to a government official speaking on Friday.

Background and Importance of Semiconductors

  • Semiconductors, commonly referred to as “chips,” are fundamental electronic components that play a crucial role in nearly all technological applications, exerting a significant impact on regional, national, and global industry development and economic growth.
  • The Pakistan National Semiconductor Plan underscores the essential influence of semiconductors on economic performance and growth.

Global Semiconductor Market and Opportunities

  • The current global semiconductor market is valued at approximately $425 billion annually and is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.
  • The market for chip-incorporating equipment is estimated to be at least $4 trillion annually, with Pakistan's current share being less than $50 million.

Pakistan's Strategy and Initiatives

  • The government is focusing on the development of an IC design cluster in Pakistan through the training of students and young professionals.
  • Efforts are underway to enhance IC design skills through public-private partnerships, following the direction of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).
  • The aim is to first export IC design services to the world as a means of earning foreign exchange and creating job opportunities for the youth.

Future Plans and Challenges

  • At present, Pakistan is not planning IC manufacturing due to its resource-intensive nature. However, long-term plans include setting up IC manufacturing foundries with foreign investment.
  • Despite the global dominance of companies from the United States, Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Japan in the semiconductor industry, Pakistani universities and the private sector are seeking government support to enter the market.
  • To address the challenges faced by the industry, the government has been urged to provide the necessary support, funds, and human resource training.

Expert Recommendations and Insights

  • According to Dr. Saad Ahmed Qazi, there are three crucial parts of the IC, including designing on specific software, manufacturing, and verification and testing.
  • Dr. Qazi stresses that the government should provide software for the training of relevant students to each university, which can cost up to $50,000 each.
  • He further emphasizes that Pakistan can make a difference with a little initial investment of around $250 million in the designing and testing processes.
  • To improve the country's competitiveness in the semiconductor industry, it is essential to enhance the quality of education, particularly in the fields of electrical, computer, and electronics engineering.

Recent Developments

  • Three major companies, including DreamBig, Nunami, and Xcelerium, have opened their design centers in Pakistan to export their services.
  • To attract more foreign investments, the government is encouraged to create a conducive environment for IC design companies.

The collective efforts of the government, educational institutions, and private sector, along with necessary support and investments, are essential for Pakistan to increase its presence in the global semiconductor industry.