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New Initiative To Encourage Postgraduate Students To Specialize In Integrated Circuit Design

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) is investing S$16 million into a new initiative to encourage postgraduate students to specialize in integrated circuit (IC) design. The Integrated Circuit Design Postgraduate Scholarship (ICPS) aims to train 150 IC designers for the semiconductor industry. IC design has been identified by the EDB as a key enabler for existing electronics applications as well as for newer areas, such as green electronics and bioelectronics.

Under this ICPS, EDB will work with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS) to reach out to postgraduates in the schools of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (NTU) and Electrical and Computing Engineering (NUS) to take up the specialization after their undergraduate studies.

This scholarship will provide 100% sponsorship to 150 postgraduate students over 5 years. The sponsorship will cover components such as research and course fees, as well as stipends. The scholars will also have attachment and training opportunities with local companies engaged in IC design activities.

Mr Damian Chan, Director of Electronics, EDB, shared that Singapore currently has a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem comprising about 40 IC design houses, 14 wafer fabrication facilities and 20 assembly and test plants. In particular, six out of the world’s top ten fabless companies have IC design activities in Singapore. In 2008, EDB attracted 14 new semiconductor product development projects which created 335 R&D jobs, including IC design jobs. In 2009, despite the global economic downturn, there continues to be strong interest in setting up or growing IC design activities in Singapore.

With the increasing need for miniaturization, multifunctionality, and energy efficiency in electronics devices, designing ICs becomes even more complex and there is an increasing demand for IC designers with postgraduate training. “IC design is a knowledge-intensive and innovation-intensive activity which is a critical part of the semiconductor value chain. The ICPS will help to address Singapore’s IC design talent needs by nurturing high quality IC designers”, said Mr. Chan.

“The world’s advanced economies are all underpinned by high-technology, high-growth and high value-add. The School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at NTU will continue to place great emphasis on nurturing and building skilled talent for the continuing growth of our electronics and semiconductor industry. This ICPS initiative by EDB builds on NTU’s strengths in IC design and demonstrates a continued focus on research that meets real-world needs”, said Professor Chan Kam Hin, Chair of NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Said Professor Lawrence Wong, Head, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, NUS: “In the IC design field, students need to develop sufficient depth in their knowledge before they can embark on innovative design. To cultivate well rounded IC designers, it is essential to have a strong background on devices, processes, and modeling coupled with familiarity of Electronic Design Automation tools to design circuits in application domains, such as digital communications and signal processing. In NUS, not only do we provide design-centric IC design modules with strong emphasis on practical hands-on projects that are relevant to the industry, but we also offer many cross-disciplinary modules that are important for IC design training. This EDB initiative will encourage more students to pursue research careers in IC design and further strengthen Singapore’s knowledge and innovation capabilities and competitiveness.”

The EDB is currently in talks with schools and companies to kick-start the ICPS initiative and is optimistic about its role in helping to boost the electronics sector in Singapore. The ICPS is fully funded by EDB with courses from NTU and NUS.

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