Peking University joins China's semiconductor push

Peking University joins China's semiconductor push

New school dedicated to chips set up

A researcher plants a semiconductor on an interface board during a research work to design and develop a semiconductor product at Tsinghua Unigroup research centre in Beijing on Feb 29, 2016. (Reuters photo)
A researcher plants a semiconductor on an interface board during a research work to design and develop a semiconductor product at Tsinghua Unigroup research centre in Beijing on Feb 29, 2016. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: China's prestigious Peking University has set up a semiconductor school to train chip engineers and technicians, joining a nationwide frenzy to create new chip colleges as part of Beijing's drive to boost semiconductor self-sufficiency.

The School of Integrated Circuits at Peking University was inaugurated on Thursday in Beijing, only one day after Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) unveiled a specialist semiconductor college in Wuhan. HUST has produced some of the country's top technology students, grabbing nationwide attention this year after six of its top graduates received offers from Huawei Technologies Co with annual packages as big as 2 million yuan (10 million baht).

Meanwhile, Tsinghua University created a semiconductor college in April, leveraging its strengths in science and engineering.

The new school at Peking University will train semiconductor engineers in integrated circuit design and manufacturing and team up with the country's chip companies to support the development of China's fledgling chip industry. Hao Ping, dean of Peking University, said during the inaugural ceremony he hopes that the school will strengthen cooperation with companies in the semiconductor field to create an "innovation community", according to a statement from the school.

Chinese universities are scrambling to set up chip schools to halt a top-level brain drain, which has seen many of the country's top graduates leave for overseas studies or work, setting back domestic development of cutting-edge semiconductor technology.

Shenzhen Technology University, an institution of higher education established in 2018, said last month it has set up a school focused on integrated circuits in cooperation with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the mainland's largest and most advanced chip foundry.

The demand for talent in China's chip sector is heating up. In 2020, the average annual salary of rank and file employees at semiconductor companies in big cities amounted to 320,000 yuan, which compares with average per capita disposable income in China of 32,189 yuan in 2020, according to data compiled by Xiamen Microplus Technologies Ltd, which runs a semiconductor information website Ijiwei.com.

The average salary in China's semiconductor industry increased 8% year-on-year in 2020, and this is expected to grow by 9% in 2021 amid ongoing China-US tech rivalry, according to Ijiwei.com.

There were around 512,000 people working in China's semiconductor industry at the end of 2019, compared with projected demand for a workforce of 745,000 by 2022, according to a recent white paper from the China Centre for Information Industry Development.

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