PORTO ALEGRE, BrazilPoliticians who packed a stage in sweltering heat here Friday (Feb. 6) to celebrate the grand opening of what they describe as Latin America's first semiconductor fab provided a glimpse into the mindset of the Brazilian government-backed play to build a chip industry in the country.
Elected officials who spoke here at the grand opening of government-funded startup Ceitec SA's wafer fab described the effort to establish semiconductor manufacturing as a strategically important step in helping transition Brazil to a bigger industrial power, away from its reliance on export of its rich supply of raw materials. While politicians stressed they wanted to lure more multi-national companies to Brazil to establish fabs and other electronics manufacturing facilities, they emphasized the establishment of a Brazil-based IC company as a linchpin in that strategy, facilitating development of the required supplier infrastructure and luring Brazilian engineers based abroad back to their native land.
|Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (right) tours the pump room supporting Ceitec's chip fab. Ceitec CEO Eduard Weichselbaumer looks on. |
Dilma Rousseff, chief of staff to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said the establishment of Ceitec would ensure the transfer of technical chip design and manufacturing knowledge within Brazil. Rousseff, who is considered a leading candidate to replace da Silva when his second term expires this year, said it was critical to lure multi-national chip companies to Brazil, but that the existence of a Brazilian IC company will reduce Brazil's dependency on outside firms.
Rousseff and others said Ceitec would eventually be able to design and manufacture modulator chips to support Brazil's SBTVD digital television standard as well as chips for government-issued passports, drivers licenses and IDs. She said that Brazil can be among the major economic powers in years to come.
President da Silva said Ceitec would help to reverse what he described as a kind of inferiority complex that gripped a whole generation of Brazilians in the 1980s, when many in the nation assumed that quality electronics products had to be made abroad. Alluding to U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign slogan, da Silva told his fellow Brazilians, "Yes, we can."
Da Silva told the audience that Brazil once had a competitive microelectronics industry, but that it was disassembled in the 1980s due to opposition to state-supported business. He said the government does not generally want to create nationalized businesses, but that it must be prepared to do so in certain instances if the private sector will not.
Da Silva said Ceitec would be critical to helping Brazil bring back Brazilian engineers who are working abroad. Those who left the country because they believed there was no market for microelectronics engineering in Brazil will now look at Ceitec and see that they have an opportunity to apply their trade in Brazil, he said. He said it was "shameful" that the number of Brazilians that studied engineering had been on the decline for many years, but that it is now on the rise.