Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Philippines should tap diaspora professionals to boost its electronics industry

THE Philippines should tap into its diaspora professional class in the United States for talents to boost its budding integrated circuits (IC) design industry and move up the value chain in the global electronics industry, a leading software design company executive urged local industry leaders Wednesday.

“You should bring home Filipino engineers working in the United States. There are hundreds of them out there,” G. Ravichandran—sales account manager for South Asia of the Singapore-based Cadence Design Systems providing electronic design software solutions worldwide—told the local electronics industry leaders at a symposium, stressing that the same approach has worked wonders for economic powerhouses China and India.

The Philippines is currently deep into assembly, test and manufacturing of electronics and semiconductors, shipping out more than $30 billion of such products for original equipment manufacturers worldwide. Industry experts say there is a need for the Philippines to go up the value chain including integrated circuits design, chip design, and research and development for the country to remain competitive vis-à-vis new players like Vietnam.

Ravichandran said the Philippines currently has about 10 companies, mostly foreign-owned, engaged in IC design but the industry is constrained by the limited number of engineers with practical experience in the business.

“Current electrical and electronic engineering graduates need more practical experience in IC design,” he said, explaining that the country right now has only about 2,000 engineers and only about 30 percent of them have relevant skills and experience in the design of integrated circuits.
“The country has limited IC design start-up companies because of the high investment cost,” said Ravichandran. “The government needs to support local IC design start- ups as well as attract more MNCs.”

Among the companies engaged in IC design are Intel, Lexmark, Canon, Rohm, Sanyo, BitMicro and Tsukiden—all multinationals. A few local companies, however, have started to gain inroads into the business. Among them is the Symphony Consulting based in the UP-Ayala Technopark in Diliman, doing digital design, analog design mixed-signal circuit simulation.

According to Domingo Bagaporo, director of the electronics division of the Board of Investments (BOI), the Philippines is currently engaging the help of the Taiwanese to boost the local IC design capability.

“Taiwan has a shortage of 2,000-3,000 IC design engineers per year,” said Bagaporo. “In view of this and the Philippines’ expressed desire to build its own capability in IC design, Taiwan has conveyed support to the Philippine government in training our engineers for IC design. This includes training of Philippine faculty and industry practitioners in Taiwan and the Philippines.”
Sources from academe said the engineering departments of several universities including the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De LaSalle University, and the University of San Carlos have started training programs and internships with several Taiwanese universities.

“The industry and the government recognize that we need to make dramatic changes as soon as possible to ensure the industry’s continued viability and increase its share in the global semiconductor manufacturing services,” said Bagaporo. “The industry plans to contribute $50-billion export revenue and one million jobs to the Philippine economy by 2010.”

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