What Challenges do Domestic Chips Face?






What challenges do domestic chips face? Why can't high-end chips be made in China?


Current situation of domestic chip industry: self-sufficiency rate of high-end general-purpose chip is nearly zero. Overall, the current structure of domestic and imported chips is probably the same: the proportion of chips localized is very low, less than 20%, most of them need to be purchased abroad, and there are about 40 leading chips companies in general use and key components in the world.


There is a large trade deficit in the import and export of integrated circuits. In 2016, China's integrated circuit imports reached US$227.07 billion, exceeding US$200 billion for four consecutive years, making it the most valuable import commodity. In the same period, the export of integrated circuits reached 61.38 billion US dollars, down 11.1%, and the trade deficit reached 165.7 billion US dollars. It is expected that the import volume of integrated circuits will remain high in the next few years.

Domestic chips focus on a few areas, such as some communication chips, display processing chips, power management chips, discrete devices, MCU, positioning navigation, etc. Most of them belong to low-end, low unit price and low profit margin. The high-end performance chips and key devices are basically monopolized by foreign manufacturers. From the point of view of the whole process of chip industry, domestic enterprises are not weaker than foreign manufacturers in sealing and testing field, some digital chip design fields are not lagging behind foreign manufacturers, analog chip design is still lagging far behind foreign countries, chip manufacturing equipment and technology are still lagging behind foreign IDM or generation 1-2 technology of agent processing enterprises.





Four Difficulties Facing Domestic Chip Manufacturers

1. Accumulation of long-term R&D investment and high tolerance. It is reflected in the design of micro-architecture, the lack of design capability of the underlying operating system, the lack of micro-architecture of general CPU (most domestic PC/server operating systems are still based on Linux, in these aspects, foreign ARM and other manufacturers have actually experienced more than 20 years of research and development before they broke out), or the rapid introduction and seizure of the top. Chip design talents.

2. Realize the positive cycle of heavy investment and high output.

3. In the short run, it surpasses foreign competitors in performance and stability.

4. The cultivation of hardware developer ecology. Intel and MS have developed curriculum system, certification system and ecological cultivation system for many years in domestic universities, but few domestic enterprises have such cross-level strategic operation.



Why can't we design powerful chips in our country?

At present, the design, manufacture and packaging of integrated circuit industry in our country go hand in hand. Manufacturing can be done on an OEM basis, and the gap between packaging test and the United States is not very large.

The biggest gap lies in the design. At present, domestic chip design mainly depends on foreign countries. An expert from a University Research Institute in Beijing told Xin Zhiyuan that it was not that China could not design chips, but that there was no condition for chip iteration.


"Big companies like Intel and ARM design first-generation chips that are difficult to use, but can be iterated before they finally come up with useful chips."


Looking back at China: Our domestic chips are difficult to survive, mainly because the industry will not give iteration opportunities. This is because, on the one hand, the market already has superior performance chips, even low cost. On the other hand, people do not have the patience to wait for domestic chips to iterate, which directly limits the improvement of chip design capability in China.


"There are many people who can actually design very good chips, but because the ecology of the market does not give you the opportunity to iterate domestic chips and selectively ignore domestic chips, so domestic companies can not and do not give engineers the opportunity to'sacrifice', which is our problem."


On the other hand, insufficient R&D investment is also the reason why high-end general purpose chips can not be produced. In addition to major national science and technology projects, other national science and technology plans basically do not have integrated circuit related projects and funding. The major scientific and technological projects of "core electronic devices, high-end general-purpose chips and basic software products" and "large scale integrated circuit equipment and complete process" launched in 2008 have invested only 4-5 billion yuan annually in research and development of integrated circuits, which is less than 5.2% to 7.7% of the research and development cost of Intel.


This situation is similar to the domestic production of SLR cameras, hoping that the process of chip localization may not be as far as imagined.







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