The “fate gate” of the chip industry chain, with less than 1,000 domestic R&D personnel

“Compared with the “stuck neck” of advanced chip manufacturing, I am more concerned about my country’s restriction of chip design software. It is the “stuck neck of the stuck neck”. my country can develop this field more vigorously.” Hangzhou Electric Power Zhejiang Province Professor Xin Jinguo, executive dean of the Institute of Information Development (the first batch of new key professional think tanks in Zhejiang Province), recently put forward the emphasis on decision-making suggestions to relevant government departments.

Compared with lithography machine, EDA software is “more terrible”

In May 2020, the United States included 33 colleges and universities, including Beijing Computer Science Research Center, Beijing High Voltage Science Research Center, Harbin Engineering University, and Harbin Institute of Technology, on the list of entities. At the same time, Huawei’s chip industry was fully restricted and upgraded. The first to bear the brunt is the upstream EDA software for chip design.

The integrated circuit industry chain mainly includes chip design tools, chip design, and chip manufacturing. At present, the domestic public is paying more attention to the design and manufacturing field. Huawei HiSilicon chips were once popular, and TSMC was restricted by the United States. The high-end lithography machine produced by ASML in the Netherlands became an Internet celebrity. In fact, China is “even more terrible” in EDA software, the most upstream of the integrated circuit industry chain.

“Chip design is divided into front-end design (also called logical design) and back-end design (also called physical design). The two do not have a unified and strict boundary. The design related to the process is the back-end design. Chip design requires large-scale industry Software as a tool, also known as EDA, its full name is Electronic Design Automation, which is electronic design automation. When designing a chip, engineers use program codes to plan chip functions, and then use EDA tools to convert the program codes into actual circuit design drawings. Huawei HiSilicon’s engineers also have to use EDA software when designing chips, and its source is mainly from large companies in the United States. With the expiration of the right to use the chip, the chip design is also facing a “stuck neck”. In other words, Huawei HiSilicon’s Tens of thousands of engineers are also facing “wars without weapons”.” Professor Liu Jun, director of the CAD Institute of Hangzhou Electronics Information Institute, said that EDA, as the “mother of chips”, is the upstream industry of chip design and is becoming the most advanced industry in the domestic chip industry chain. The weak link.

Domestic EDA R&D personnel “fewer than 1,000”

my country has also made major breakthroughs in the field of EDA software. In 1986, the state mobilized experts from many units across the country to gather at the original Beijing Integrated Circuit Design Center to develop my country’s own integrated circuit computer-aided design system-Panda System. After years of hard work, the first domestic EDA panda system finally came out in 1993. Among them, the CAD Institute of Hangzhou Dianzi University (called Hangzhou Institute of Electronic Industry at the time) contributed a number of core R&D personnel for the system.

“But the mainstream thinking at the time was that it is better to buy and rent than to buy. Therefore, domestic EDA software tools are not widely used in my country, and our country therefore missed the critical period of EDA technology development.” Liu Jun said.

During this period, in the global EDA software field, Cadence (Kadence), Synopsys (Synopsys), and Mentor Graphic (Mentor Graphic) giants emerged in a three-pronged situation. They account for more than 60% of the global market. “They all have large financial support behind them, and they have basically experienced dozens of mergers and acquisitions and expansions, and have gained a competitive position in the market.” Xin Jinguo analyzed.

In 2008, my country implemented a major scientific and technological project of “Nuclear High Base” (core electronic devices, high-end general-purpose chips and basic software products), and the EDA field also ushered in a new round of national support. The weak industrial fire gave birth to a number of high-quality companies such as BGI (the successor of the panda system), Xinwei, Guangliwei, Xinhe Technology, and Gelun Electronics, and the domestic EDA set sail again.

At the same time, there are more than 20 universities in my country engaged in chip design research. Among these more than 20 schools, Fudan, Tsinghua University and Zhejiang University should belong to the first grade; Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Xi’an Jiaotong University belong to the second grade, and the remaining universities are in the third grade. . For the research and development of integrated circuit and system CAD/EDA technology, Hangzhou Dianzi University has the first-mover advantage. Since the establishment of the Microelectronics CAD Research Institute (directly approved by the Ministry of Electronics Industry) in the 1980s, it has been engaged in the research of integrated circuit CAD/EDA technology. So far, he has accumulated rich experience in integrated circuit design, especially in the field of radio frequency EDA technology, and achieved many results, which have been applied in domestic integrated circuit process lines, Huada Jiutian, Huawei and other companies.

“The basic research and development of integrated circuits used to be a long time ago. The state has invested very little. It has been the past few years to consolidate national efforts to tackle the problem of IC card neck problems such as lithography machines. Fortunately, the most difficult period for basic research and development in universities and research institutes , Leaving behind some technology and personnel, a single spark can start a prairie fire. Hangdian CAD is also a single spark.” Liu Jun sighed, but he was also worried. “There are not many universities in China that set up chip EDA majors. EDA technology research and development personnel does not exceed 1,000 people, while the United States alone Cadence has more than 7,000 R&D personnel, and Synopsys has more than 5,000 R&D personnel. There is not much time left for us to catch up with them.”

Our country can “make a big show” on EDA

Professor Li Wenjun, Dean of the Hangzhou Electronics Information Institute, said that the EDA software system is the cornerstone of the entire semiconductor industry. Without this cornerstone, all chip design companies in the world would shut down and the $500 billion semiconductor industry pyramid would collapse.

“There is a well-known inverted pyramid in the integrated circuit industry in the industry. The global EDA software market has an annual output value of 10 billion U.S. dollars. The annual output value of semiconductor equipment (lithography machines, etc.) is tens of billions of U.S. dollars. 100 billion U.S. dollars, the annual output value of electronic systems is several trillion U.S. dollars, and the annual output value of digital economy such as entertainment software e-commerce big data is tens of trillions of U.S. dollars. Without the EDA software system at the bottom of the pyramid, there are more and more big ones on it. The industry will return to zero.” Liu Jun analyzed.

It is precisely because of the high technical threshold of the EDA software industry, and the annual global market size is only 10 billion US dollars and is monopolized by the three major Western EDA companies, the development of Chinese EDA tool companies is maintained. But they are becoming a climate in recent years. Zhejiang Guangli Microelectronics is one of the three swordsmen in my country’s EDA software industry. Based on test chip software and hardware system products and overall solutions, it is a leading supplier of performance analysis and yield improvement solutions for the semiconductor industry; domestically located in Hangzhou EDA represents the enterprise Xingxin Technology to provide software for the back-end design of digital and analog chips, and is an EDA tool supplier for internationally renowned large companies. “With the changes in the domestic market environment in the past two years, the demand for independent domestic software has become stronger and stronger. As a supplier of domestic high-end EDA software, Xingxin has achieved high performance and low performance for the majority of integrated circuit companies in the era of 5G and artificial intelligence. The power chip design provides a reliable solution and establishes an industrial alliance with the top players in the upstream and downstream of the domestic semiconductor industry to support the development of my country’s semiconductor industry.” Dr. He Qing, founder of Xingxin Technology, told reporters.

Xin Jinguo suggested that the country should make more efforts to cultivate EDA talents to make up for the black hole of talent loss over the years. “The talents required by the EDA industry are mainly tool software development talents, engineers with process and device backgrounds, engineers familiar with the IC design process, and mathematics. Home, the scope of employment is narrow, and it was not popular among college students in the past. Even if schools such as Hang Dian are relatively mature in cultivating EDA talents, there are very few talents cultivated every year. “

Xin Jinguo also suggested that a mechanism for the development of chip EDA software for multi-party cooperation between politics, research, and enterprises should be established. Leading by the government, concentrating efforts on major events, establishing a chip EDA software technology development steering committee led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, with the participation of the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant departments, as well as industry companies, experts and scholars, to study and formulate relevant industry development in a timely manner Support policies to coordinate the implementation and promotion of the entire industry chain of this technology in my country. It can focus on supporting high-level R&D institutions, guide Tsinghua National Laboratory of Information Science and Technology, Zhijiang Laboratory, etc. to carry out the research and development of chip EDA software basic theory, and support Hangzhou Dianzi University to cooperate with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and Huada Jiutian. The Hangzhou Electronics Platform of “Electronics Core Cloud” and the “Hangdian-Beijing Huada Jiutian Integrated Circuit EDA Technology Research Center” form a wide-ranging EDA technology training center, design support technology service center and forward-looking technology research and development center.

The Silicon Valley of the United States is an industrial highland for chip EDA software development, and technology and talent are “overflowing.” It is recommended that all relevant departments in our country set up a dedicated chip EDA software development and investment team first, aiming at international and domestic chip EDA software leaders and scientific research institutes to carry out high-end precision investment, and according to the “broken link” of the EDA industry chain, speed up the introduction from Silicon Valley in the United States. Chip EDA software development technology and high-end talents in other places. “Of course, EDA software industry innovation and entrepreneurial talents settled down, housing, job hiring, job title review, children’s school and other related supporting policies should also keep up.” Xin Jinguo said.

 

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