Ministry of Electronics tries again to select agency to advise on commercialization of SCL
The union cabinet’s approval in December 2021 of schemes to promote semiconductor and display manufacturing, with an initial overlay of Rs 76,000 crore, also mentioned plans to modernize and commercialize the laboratory of semiconductors (SCL) near Mohali, Punjab.
SCL is the only semiconductor chip manufacturing facility in India with industrial grade equipment and production line capable of manufacturing 200 millimeter (mm) processed silicon wafers using a 180 nanometer (nm) processing node at a rate of a few thousand per month.
swarajya Contributor Arun Mampazhy argued earlier that in theory SCL could be able to process nearly 4,000 wafers per month with adjustments to the existing production line. (The various commercial chips that could be manufactured at SCL, along with an estimate of the possible revenue it can bring at “full capacity,” have been outlined in another article.)
Even though the new commercial greenfield semiconductor fabs that India hopes to encourage are of the latest wafer size (300mm), newer technology nodes (65nm or less) and higher capacity (minimum 40,000 wafers per month), reviving and marketing SCL to its full potential is important, as explained here.
In January this year, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had solicited proposals for the valuation of SCL’s assets, although it is believed that the facility was still owned by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) at that time.
In February, it was announced that SCL was handed over from ISRO to MeitY.
In June, MeitY launched a call for applications for a new director (who is also the managing director or CEO) of SCL. The original deadline to submit an application was August 9. However, it was later extended to September 8.
It is not immediately known if the new director has been selected or if the process is still ongoing.
Additionally, on June 13, MeitY also guest a “request for proposal”, or RFP, for the selection of an agency for the role of “Transaction Cum Legal Adviser” for the modernization or commercialization of SCL.
However, this RFP was canceled August 11.
MeitY has now reissued the DP. According to the new notification, the request for proposal is for the “selection of the agency to act as consultant for the modernization/commercialization of the semiconductor laboratory, Mohali”.
Although the notification talks about “exploring the possibility of “an SCL joint venture with “one or more commercial manufacturing partners to upgrade the brownfield manufacturing facility,” knowledgeable sources say that MeitY might also consider reputable Indian trading houses as a marketing partner.
For example, Section 9.2, titled “Technical Evaluation Scoring System”, previously had four parameters. Now it has seven and a detailed breakdown of how grades will be awarded.
The new parameters include the experience of the deployed team and the criteria for the project director, the project manager, as well as the two subject matter experts (SMEs), which is good; however, it remains to be seen whether requirements such as “world experience” will be easily met.
MEITY has been unable to identify and finalize globally experienced candidates for high-level positions, such as the CEO of India Semiconductor Mission (ISM), even after approximately eight months since the announcement of an opening for these positions.
However, in the case of this recent RFP, the onus is on the applying agency to hire these candidates.
It also appears that MeitY may not wait for the appointment of a globally experienced ISM CEO to make yes-or-no decisions on the first-round proposals received for silicon fabs.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, recently suggests that the proposals are being evaluated by the ISM advisory committee.
By the way statements made in August by Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, “we are expected to hold the first groundbreaking ceremony for India’s semiconductor manufacturing units” before November-December of this year. This is a hint that at least one of the current proposals could be approved by September or October.
Although Vaishnaw did not specify whether he was talking about a chip packaging unit or a compound semiconductor factory or even a silicon factory, the expectation and assumption will be that he talked about approving one or more of the three proposals received in the first round for silicon. fab.
Read also : SCL Fab In Mohali is too important a project to be managed by a “delegated director”