Empowering Saudi Innovators Globally… Future of Semiconductor Forum 2024 Sets Stage for Localizing Chip Production

Empowering Saudi Innovators Globally…
Future of Semiconductor Forum 2024 Sets Stage for Localizing Chip Production

The third edition of the Future of SemiconductorsForum in Riyadh laid out a roadmap for creating thousands of high-value training and job opportunities. The Forum opened doors for Saudi innovators and talented individuals to excel globally in this strategic field and paved the way for establishing a comprehensive system for localizing electronic chips.

This version of the forum was organized by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). It was attended by H.E. the Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Chairman of the Board of Directors of KACST, Eng. Abdullah Al-Sawaha, H.E. the Minister of Investment, Eng. Khalid Al-Falih, H.E. the President of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, and Her Excellency the President of Princess Nourah BintAbdul Rahman University, Dr. Enas Al-Issa, along with the participation of more than 40 local and international experts. This event showcased the Kingdom’s steps towards an innovative digital economy and promising opportunities, as well as attracting global investments.

The forum, attended by over 1500 experts and enthusiasts, and watched by more than 40,000 viewers in over 50 countries, concluded with a set of ambitious outcomes. It showcased remarkable presentations and ideas that the Kingdom intends to benefit from in its journey towards building the future of semiconductors and exploring more opportunities in the coming years to support innovation. This was affirmed by His Excellency the President of KACST, Dr. Munir Eldesouki, during his closing speech. He said, “We enjoyed deep discussions and innovative ideas over the course of two days, along with strong collaboration that reflects the future of semiconductors in the Kingdom.” He also pointed out that one of the most important outcomes of the Forum is the announcement of several initiatives that will shape the future of semiconductors in the coming years.

The announcement of 4 new national initiatives during the Forum confirms the Kingdom’s serious desire to advance in developing this industry. The President of KACST announced the launch of the National Capability Center for Semiconductors aimed at developing and localizing the electronic chip industry in the Kingdom by investing in shared expertise and resources with KAUST, enhancing innovation culture, knowledge exchange, talent development, and partnerships. This contributes to solving the challenges of this promising industry in the Kingdom and supports its plans for research and development in the field of electronic chips and semiconductors, as part of its efforts to reduce costs and achieve research excellence.

A Master’s program for both male and female students was established through a partnership between KACSTand UCLA. The program aims to support the semiconductor industry localization by providing integrated training. Students will have practical training at Princess Nourah University and academic learning through distance education with professors from UCLA. 35% of the training will take place in clean rooms at KACST. This initiative is expected to create a skilled workforce to enhance semiconductor manufacturing, packaging, selection, and characterization. It aligns with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 by generating high-value jobs and innovative specialties to boost the labor market’s competitiveness.

The Forum also witnessed the announcement of the commencement of registration for the first batch of the “Ignition” semiconductor incubator program for a full year. The program offers intensive training and guidance from industry leaders and academic experts. It gives participants the skills and knowledge needed to bring their ideas to life and helps them tackle the challenges of the semiconductor industry, potentially leading to significant changes.

The National Semiconductor Hub, launched by the General Supervisor of the Research, Development and Innovation Authority (RDIA), Dr. Mohammed Al-Otaibi, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, KACST, KAUST, Alat Company, the National Technology Development Program (NTDP), and The Garage, aims to localize 50 companies in high technologies, train 5,000 Saudi engineers in integrated circuit design, provide more than 150 million Saudi Riyals as diverse support products, and attract over 1 billion Saudi Riyals of investment in deep technologies by 2030.

The forum showcased the success stories of two Saudi high school students, such as the promising talent Sara Al-Shiddi. She achieved the gold medal with honors at the Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions 2024. She also won a special prize for her invention “Water Purification System”. This system was manufactured and developed in the clean rooms laboratories of KACST. Furthermore, she received the Future Researcher Award in 2023.

The Forum also presented the success story of Fajr Al-Khulayfi, a graduate of the Enrichment Research and Innovation Generation Program. She represented the Kingdom at the 2023 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair “ISEF 2023” and achieved third place globally in the field of energy with a project on “Producing Renewable Clean Energy Using Raindrops.” The project aims to harness the heavy rainfall in the Kingdom annually to produce clean and renewable energy, providing an inspiring experience full of pride and honor.

The participation of a wide spectrum of prominent innovators and scientists from around the world in the Forum reflects the significant importance that the Kingdom has gained in this field. Dr. Shuji Nakamura, the Nobel laureate in Physics in 2014 and the inventor of blue and green LED lights and ultraviolet laser diodes, delivered an important speech during the forum, highlighting the applications of VCSEL laser technology. Nakamura discussed the latest advancements in semiconductor innovations and their role in providing high performance, efficiency, and reliability for a wide range of applications, indicating the Kingdom’s ambitious aspirations in this field.

Among more than 40 experts and specialists who participated in the forum, several prominent names emerged. For example, Professor Kang Wang, who holds a professorship in electrical engineering and computer science and serves as Co-Director of the Center for Quantum Science and Engineering at UCLA. Also in attendance was Professor Steven P. DenBaars from the University of California – Santa Barbara, renowned for holding more than 190 US patents and co-founding the Institute of Engineering Electricity and Electronics alongside four photonics and electronics companies. Other important participants include Goutam Chattopadhyay, a research scientist at NASA, Ross Jatou, President of Semiconductors at ALAT, Ankur Gupta, General Manager and Vice President @ Siemens EDA, Prof. Faisal Alotaibi, Professor of Neurological Surgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, and Prof. Umesh Mishra, Dean of the College of Engineering at UCSB.

The challenges, aspirations, and opportunities in the field of the semiconductor industry in the Kingdom were heavily present in the forum’s agenda for two days. Eight scientific sessions were held. The first session focused on “Saudi Arabia’s Overall Landscape in Semiconductors: Exploring Opportunities and Shaping the Future.” Participants discussed the necessary infrastructure for the semiconductor industry, ways to develop human resources, potential technical obstacles, and possible solutions to overcome them. The second session, titled “From Silicon to Microchips: Delving into the Semiconductor Value Chain in Saudi Arabia,” discussed strategic initiatives to enhance and develop the semiconductor industry, as well as opportunities for localization.

In the third session, the discussion was about “Advancements in Semiconductors for Space Exploration”. Participants reviewed the advanced devices capable of capturing faint signals from distant galaxies with unprecedented sensitivity to explore the secrets of the universe. The fourth session discussed research on “The Path to 6G Communications and Beyond,” as well as the development and manufacturing of semiconductors in the Kingdom, and enhancing cooperation between academics, government stakeholders, and industry workers.

The fifth session, titled ” Photonics from Lighting to Quantum Computing,” showcased a series of consecutive innovations and amazing developments in the field of photonics, highlighting the role of artificial intelligence and data science in lighting technologies. The sixth session focused on “Advancements in Semiconductor Packaging Technology,” where experts discussed the significant progress in emerging application packaging technologies, in line with the leaps in the semiconductor industry.

The seventh session delved into uncovering the secrets of the deep world of sensors and their role in the Internet of Things, Nanotechnology, neuroscience, and computational engineering under the title “Integrated Sensors to Empower the Internet of Things and Beyond”. The last session of the Forum highlighted “Electronic Chips in Electric Cars”, pointing to the Kingdom’s ability, with its human, scientific, and economic capabilities, and its distinctive geographical location, to be a major player in the electronic chip industry for cars, amidst efforts by the Kingdom to localize silicon innovations.

An exhibition accompanied the scientific sessions of the Forum. Twenty local and international companies participated in the exhibition, showcasing the latest innovations in semiconductor technology. Additionally, innovative male and female students from Saudi universities participated by presenting 30 research posters in the field of semiconductors. They were honored on the sidelines of the Forum’s proceedings.

The inaugural Future of Semiconductors Forum in 2022 marked the launch of the Saudi Semiconductor Program (SSP), a pioneering initiative in the region supporting electronic chip design and localization. The second edition of the forum in 2023 at KAUST, whichlasted three days, further bolstered the Kingdom’s semiconductor industry development, emphasizing its commitment to national priorities and aspirations. This highlights Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in the sector.