The market for integrated circuits and semiconductors in Vietnam has huge potential, offering great opportunities for domestic and foreign enterprises to invest in and develop the industry, experts said at the SEMI Vietnam Semiconductor Strategy Summit in Ho Chi Minh City on September 10.

The summit, the first of its kind in the city, is a platform for local and international industrial experts, state management agencies and businesses to discuss strategies and opportunities in the Vietnamese semiconductor industry.

Speaking at the event, To Thi Thu Huong, deputy director general of the Department of Information Technology under the Ministry of Information and Communications, said that the IC industry is core support industry for the development of other industries, including information technology, telecoms, and mechanical and automatic engineering.

Acknowledging the importance of the industry, in the past few years, the Vietnamese Government has issued policies to encourage development of the IC semiconductor industry.

In response to the Government policy, HCM City has outlined its IC development plan for the 2013-20 period.

It aims to develop human resources, incubate IC businesses, design and manufacture prototypes, promote the semiconductor and IC industries and build a fabrication and a design centre.

Following Intel's 1 billion USD micro-chip plant in Saigon Hi-Tech Park in 2006, HCM City established the Semiconductor Industry Association (HSIA) in March this year.

It has also developed a plan to build the country's first wafer fabrication plant in the high-tech park.

A wafer is a thin piece of semiconductor crystal used to make ICs.

Pham Ba Tuan, senior advisor for the Waferfab project, said the plant, invested in by the Saigon Industry Corporation (CNS), will help build an ecosystem for the semiconductor industry, covering product design to IC manufacturing and testing and finally the semiconductor supporting industry.

"It will be sufficient to cover domestic demand for ICs, preventing the spending of hard-earned money from labour-intensive industry on purchasing semiconductor goods," he said.

Tuan said the need for ICs in Vietnam was close to 2 billion USD last year. The demand is expected to continue to increase in the coming time. Currently, most of these goods are imported, he added.

In addition, despite the contraction of worldwide semiconductor revenue, Asia continues showing positive development.

This indicates that the IC need in the region remains strong, he added.

"The growing demand of the domestic market will give the Waferfab project a very good chance to meet some of this demand," he said.

Potential applications for wafers in Vietnam include SIMS cards, electronic ID/licence cards, radio frequency identification, sensor interfaces IC, phone chips and many others, he added.

"For IC development, we need to build a strong workforce that meets international quality standards for the field of design and fabrication of semiconductor chips," said Vu Dinh Thanh, rector of the HCM City University of Technology.

IC is at the heart of many electronics and is considered to be one of the most important support industries in Vietnam .

Apart from financial investment, development of a skilled workforce, partnerships with established microelectronic markets, and other needs must also be addressed to develop the IC industry.

Human resources are crucial to the industrialisation and modernisation of the country. However, high-tech human resources in the country are considered insufficient and poorly skilled, Thanh said.

Vietnam will eventually have about 22 companies related to IC design, requiring about 14,000 personnel this year.

All of the surveyed companies said they will increase the number of engineers working in Vietnam .

However, Vietnam 's universities only offer electrical engineering, electronics and telecommunications subjects for study and do not provide training for IC design.

He called on universities, institute and businesses to join hands to develop the human resource for the IC industry.

In an effort to meet a part of HR demand, Thanh said his university as well as others have developed collaboration programmes with Japanese and Swiss universities on training programmes in IC design, and have provided short training courses for enterprises.

The summit was organised by SEMI in collaboration with Saigon Hi-Tech Park and the HCM City Semiconductor Industry Association.-VNA