This Indian startup plans fab for compound semiconductors

The Indian government's incentives to encourage semiconductor manufacturing in India have seen large companies like Vedanta and Tata entering the sector. The country has also witnessed companies entering joint ventures that could see high-value business ventures coming up.

Povency Circuits

But it is not just the large companies that are trying to enter the semiconductor manufacturing sector. Gujarat-based Powency Circuits, a company that began with an initial goal of making small-scale power-related applications with better efficiency, is a startup that is aiming to launch III-V compound semiconductor manufacturing in India, which include epitaxi wafers (GaN on Si, GaN on SiC), high mobility device manufacturing, turnkey solution, and high power devices using GaN, GaAs material.

Speaking to Digitimes Asia recently, Sunil Parmar, Director of Powency Circuits, pointed out that the company was started with a focus on power management and power efficiency. Their application ranges from mobiles to servers and, perhaps most significantly now, electric vehicles.

A novel approach to power efficiency

Powency's primary goal has been to achieve the maximum power efficiency of semiconductor products. Parmar said that to this end, they devised a unique solution that has shown to be more efficient than conventional systems.

"So, we found that wide bandgap semiconductors like gallium nitride and silicon carbide are much better compared to silicon," Parmar explained. "Their superiority is seen in all kinds of electrical properties like efficiency, power density, electron mobility, thermal conductivity, etc. But the only problem is that it's a bit more expensive compared to silicon. But the advantages you get at the system level would help overcome the individual component cost."

Powency has been working with certain American, Japanese, and Taiwanese companies in the wide bandgap semiconductors field. They also have tie-ups with some Swedish organizations.

"We are now planning to set up a wideband gap, either packaging or fabrication, in India to take advantage of the government's new initiative called India Semiconductor Mission (ISM)," Parmar added.

Policies available but receiving support is a struggle

As a semiconductor company that's keen to enter manufacturing, Powency is looking to make use of government incentives. However, Parmar points out that, at the moment, the situation is more like a chicken and egg situation. On the one hand, the government is making an effort to take things forward, but at the same time, they are looking for some proven track record that limits the scope for startups.

"I can easily understand the government's situation, and I really cannot blame them or complain about it," Parmar said. "But we are facing some challenges. The government is ready to support schemes and proposals, but their background requirements are pretty stringent. They are looking to see if we have a continuous revenue of a particular level which we are not able to fulfill. But I believe since our intentions are aligned, we will be able to make it happen at some point."

Parmar pointed out that the problem is the massive amount of investment that's required. For instance, if they are setting up a semiconductor packaging house, the cost would come to hundreds of millions of dollars. Even if they start in a single line with a niche requirement, the cost may be around 20-25 million. Such amounts would require solid government support to sustain.

Potential in a range of applications

Powency's power efficiency solution has applications in various sectors, from mobile phones to servers, automobiles, aviation, wearables, etc. Parmar pointed out that as EVs become more popular, considering power efficiency is inevitable. This is where their solutions become relevant.

"In EVs, the power efficiency will increase at least by 5 percent with the use of wide bandgap semiconductors," Parmar said. "A Toyota report showed that if your car provides 100 kilometers range, it will increase to 110 kilometers if you use silicon carbide in its power management system. And the advantages are not limited to power alone. For instance, the silicon carbide system has a higher operating temperature range, enabling lower thermal management efforts."

Towards local manufacturing

Powency has been working towards setting up its manufacturing plant for the last few years. Although COVID-19 halted their efforts, the company is back at it, as government plans have made the industry more optimistic.

But the challenges that Parmar mentioned persist, and more action towards supporting startups would be required for the industry to forge ahead. With government support and overseas partnerships, companies like Powency can become an integral part of the industry.