BENGALURU, India IBM Corp. has shown interest in setting up a prototype fab in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata designed to help fabless chip companies test designs before committing to expensive foundry production.
The prototype fab is likely to have facilities for chip characterization, and may be able to provide 45-nm process technologies for prototyping purposes. Currently, chip design firms here have no choice but to use foundries in Taiwan and elsewhere is Asia to test chips, a lengthy and expensive proposition.
The prototype fab would cost about $50 million. While IBM has met with officials from West Bengal, no plans have been finalized, said Debesh Das of West Bengal's Ministry of Information Technology.
The West Bengal government is competing with other Indian states to attract software and hardware companies. It is planning a $120 million India Design Center. The prototype fab will be a part of the center. The fab may be financially supported by the state and federal governments. More importantly, West Bengal is trying to draw Indian and overseas fabless chip design firms by offering financial incentives, Das said.
The 150-acre design center will include incubation centers, chip design and EDA tool development companies and the prototype fab. It also will offer various incentives, such as subsidies for training and for capital expenditures. Interest incurred in financing a start-up also would be subsidized.
Many potential chip design startups are deterred by the high costs of EDA tools. The state information technology department would provide software tools to these firms on a rental basis. A separate fund to encourage startups would be debt-financed. The government would hold an equity stake in such start-ups.
"The overall aim is to have the entire ecosystem for semiconductors in West Bengal," said Das. The Indian Institute of Technology, known for its strengths in VLSI design, could also offer a post-graduate course at the Center.