TechSprouts is a platform to engage with the deep science ecosystem in India

TechSprouts Newsletter: February 2024

Indian semiconductor infra buildout, recent spacetech investments and more

Deep science funding updates

  • Digantara announced the final close of its Series A round with a $2M infusion from Aditya Birla Ventures and SIDBI Venture Capital. The company provides various stakeholders in the space industry with datasets and orbital insights.
  • Pandorum Technologies, a company developing regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, raised a Series A round of $8M from an angel investor.
  • Spacefields raised a seed round of $800,000 in a seed round led by HVB 88 Angels and O2 Angels Network. The company designs and manufactures solid rocket propulsion systems.

Deep science ecosystem updates

  • Thyrocare is acquiring 100% stake in Think Health Diagnostics to double down on the Pre Policy Medical Checkup and Annual Health Checkup segment.
  • MolBio diagnostics has started a new program called ‘EDGE’, a scaleup partnership program focused on accelerating commercialization of healthcare technologies.
  • Bristol Myers Squibb is setting up a global drug development and IT services facility in Hyderabad with an investment of close to $100M.
  • Tata Group’s semiconductor chip fabrication unit in Gujarat was approved with an outlay of nearly INR 500 billion. Similarly, Tata Electronics’ plant for assembling and packaging of semiconductors at Jagiroad, Assam, was approved with a cost of INR 400 billion; the Assam state government will contribute around INR 210 billion.

News from the research community

  • A team of researchers at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have found that primary dengue infections are as severe as secondary infections and can be life-threatening.
  • Researchers from National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) have uncovered a spike in calcium levels and the plant immune protein Plant Elicitor Peptide Receptor (PEPR) when plant cells are attacked by insects. This amplifies the damage signal and communicates distress to other cells of the plant.

Deep Science Thoughts

The build-out of semiconductor infrastructure in India

Last year in March, we wrote about the new age of the semiconductor industry in India, marked by a major push towards domestic manufacturing and assembly of electronic components. There were a number of proposals in the works to set up both silicon foundries, or fabs, as well as outsourced semiconductor assembly and testing (OSAT) facilities.

Activity in this space has picked up just this past week, with a number of announcements for upcoming facilities to be built by private players with significant support from the Indian Government’s India Semiconductor Mission (ISM). The ISM was founded in 2021 with the aim of not only supporting semiconductor startups, but more importantly to promote and subsidize the construction of silicon foundries and OSAT facilities. India’s first fab will now be set up by Tata Electronics in partnership with PSMC, Taiwan. This is a milestone moment for the Indian semiconductor ecosystem, accentuated by the fact that the fab will manufacture chips at the 28nm process node, which is a relatively high-end use case and will find use cases in electric vehicles, telecom and defense just to name a few. Tata Electronics is setting up a new ATMP plant in Assam and CG Power has gotten approval for a OSAT plant in Gujarat, joining Micron’s ATMP in Gujarat. These four projects represent a total financial outlay of $18 billion.

This whirlwind of activity will have major implications on the semiconductor design industry in India. One of the topics we explored in our recent India Deep Science Tech Report is the movement of the Indian semiconductor industry to produce high-value products as opposed to simply providing design and testing services as things stand today. The rise of OSAT and ATMP plants is the first step the industry is taking towards becoming a global powerhouse of semiconductor manufacturing.

The larger opportunity for design startups in India, and for highly differentiated electronics technologies more generally, will come from semiconductor foundries themselves that create the wafers from which dies and chips are cut out. While it is exciting to see Tata and hopefully also Tower’s foundry announcements, it’s important to recognize that these are targeting process nodes in the range of 28-65nm, while the absolute state of the art globally is in the 2-5nm range, which is the node size that top-of-the-line AI chips, GPUs and ASICs are fabricated at. The first generation of Indian foundries will serve slightly more commoditized markets, yet these too have scope for differentiated and high-tech approaches. Such approaches will primarily come from edge AI applications, whether it is in image analysis and surveillance, industrial optimization and IoT, or self-driving cars and other automotive applications. These areas are seeing increased demand and will need a diversity of specialized hardware and software stacks to address it.

The huge financial investment going into semiconductor manufacturing and packaging is encouraging, but to reach its full potential, the Indian industry also has certain challenges to overcome. Setting up these plants requires long-term, well-aligned and productive partnerships with global technology players - something that Indian companies have not succeeded at in the past. Finding and constructing the right teams to build the manufacturing industry is also going to be important. Finally, it’s going to be imperative to operate with a 10- or even 20-year vision in mind, as this is a marathon and not a sprint. For India to be able to capture more value of the global $500+ billion semiconductor market, it’s going to need to get manufacturing right.

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TechSprouts is a platform to engage with the deep science ecosystem in India