STMicroelectronics, a prominent global semiconductor company, is dedicated to delivering innovative solutions that positively impact people’s lives. In an interview with Francesco Muggeri, Vice President of Marketing & Applications for Power Discrete & Analog in APeC/China at STMicroelectronics, Rahul Chopra and Nidhi Agarwal from Electronics For You gathered some amazing insights.
Q. Could you clarify the term “industrial group” for our readers?
A. First off, we need to clarify why we focus on these areas for those not well-versed in tech. The reason is purely financial – it is about semiconductor revenue, sales, and the growth of automation, power, and energy in the coming years. We are also emphasising competence centres and investing heavily in cutting-edge technologies like silicon carbide and gallium nitride devices, as well as smart MCU with built-in AI. Over half of our investments go into projects like bigger 300-millimeter initiatives and silicon carbide. So, it is all about future-proofing our portfolio.
Q. Could you share highlights from recent industrial summits in China, Taiwan, and India? How have these events gone so far?
A. Our focus at these summits is to communicate that we are actively working to make products and solutions more sustainable by reducing energy consumption and waste through our diverse product range.
We are deeply involved in power, energy, automation, and motor control. We have a solid goal to back up solar and wind energy creation. We give people solutions that don’t use much energy and smartly cut down on waste through automation. As per reports, electric motors use up about 53% of all the electric energy. So, we think it’s really important to work on saving a big chunk of that energy to make a real difference.
Q. Why organise these “Industrial Summits” across various cities? Any differences for the summit in India?
A. These summits are about establishing our presence in the industrial sector. We invite top CXOs from key companies to showcase our offerings. We were really happy to show them what we have got and they seemed to like it. Many are already using our products, which is encouraging. This was the case everywhere we went.
Q. How does India compare to other Asian nations, and how does it affect your go-to-market strategy?
A. India is a younger market as compared to China and Taiwan. By ‘younger’, I mean they are still growing in the tech competencies. India excels in software development, which has a global impact. When you look at how India is growing, it’s pretty different from China. For instance, in China, they have the setup to support really fast cars and highways. But India’s scene is more about motorbikes and not about luxury cars, which are more common in the West. It’s important to bring cars to India that fit their current setup.
Talking about our approach in India, we are thinking about things like creating the right kind of car chargers. Like, instead of going for really high-powered chargers, we’re focusing on smaller, more practical ones first. These would be suitable for the smaller cars you find there, which don’t need as much power to charge. We adapt our approach to match India’s unique needs..
Q. How do India’s earnings compare to China for your division, and what are your hopes for India’s future performance?
A. Currently, China generates over $100 billion, while India is in the low billions. Profitable in both places, but revenue-wise, they differ significantly.
Q. Can you explain what “competence centres” are, and why you are investing in them? Do you have any thoughts on setting up something similar in India down the line?
A. I initiated competence centres four years ago, which I am really proud of.. These centres allow us to provide customers with comprehensive semiconductor solutions that work seamlessly together. Basically, our company, ST, has the biggest range of solutions for the industrial sector. We have got a super wide variety of products which are ready to go-to-market. We want to enable our customers to use a complete set of our semiconductors right from the start, since we have designed them such that when together, they work really well. So, through these competence centres we have dedicated teams that can understand the holistic needs of the customers, and offer them a whole solution.
Within four years, we have managed to establish these in China, Korea, and Taiwan.
Now, we have chosen to also invest in setting up one in Greater Noida, India. We have got the space sorted out, and we are ready to put money into the necessary equipment. We are also hiring two engineers. One will focus on power and energy stuff like smart metres and wireless charging, and the other will work on things like motor drives and home appliances. This investment shows our commitment to tailored solutions for the Indian market, especially since these all-in-one solutions are in top demand here. We think this could give us a competitive edge, at least in India.
Q. So, the competence centre is like a helpful hub where people can bring their issues, and your team assist customers in crafting perfect solutions for them?
A. Yes, you got it. Sometimes, the customer might not have a clear idea. In such cases, we demonstrate a full solution, which they can refine as per their needs. It’s not just about the hardware; we offer flexibility with our software based on our STM32 platform too.
Q. Do customers worry about cost when you recommend your own parts? How do you reassure them?
A. Absolutely, they might notice that one part could be pricier, but we are here to offer an entire solution, not just cheap parts. Cost-effectiveness is crucial, and we streamline solutions to save space and improve efficiency. Let me give you an example. In the case of air conditioning units, instead of using three separate boards to control different parts, we have managed to streamline it down to just one board. This not only saves space but potentially makes the whole system more efficient and cost-effective in the long run. We encourage our customers to utilise our complete solution to get the most benefits, but we also give them the freedom to adapt it according to their needs without compromising on competitiveness.
Q. Is EV charging an important market for you?
A. Absolutely. We already have a few good EV-charging solutions ready to go-to-market. Plus, we are eager to refine them to meet the specific needs and preferences of Indian customers.
Q. Can someone with an EV charging design idea collaborate with your team for a possible solution?
A. Yeah, that’s right! We’ve even got some local partners who have mastered our range of solutions. Together, we’ve set up a lab where our technical teams can collaborate, learn, and aim to provide the best service possible. So, we are definitely open to collaborating on new solutions,.
Q. Your competence centres providing design solutions to customers—would that be an area of concern for your design partners?
A. Not really, because our design partners can also benefit from what we are doing. Our actions always start with the customer’s needs in mind, not to compete with our partners.
Q. What cutting-edge tech in power and energy excites you for India?
A. We are really excited to bring a couple of big things to India. First up is something for high-power needs, especially in areas like charging stations. Here, silicon carbide is a star player, and we are all set to introduce it along with our gate drivers, offering a complete solution. Next, we have Gallium Nitride, a key ingredient when it comes to making things smaller and more compact. So, these two are our top picks for the Indian market!
Q. What’s a ‘Power Gun,’ and where do you see its potential applications?
A. The power gun is pretty cool – it’s a small device that can step in for the usual MOSFET, and provide a better performance. It does cost a bit more right now since the technology is still evolving. Looking ahead, we are eyeing the automotive sector, particularly in board chargers, though it’s still early days for everyone in this area. It’s going to be quite exciting when the automotive-grade versions become available, and we are actively working on that. In addition to cars, this power gun can really shine in high-power switch mode power supplies, exceeding 300 watts. It’s also a great fit for the telecom sector, being perfect for servers and desktop computers. We see a lot of potential pathways for this power gun!
Q. Is wireless charging becoming a big trend?
A. Yes, we are really diving into this. Our centre in Shanghai is one of the few places in the world equipped to test the latest wireless charging standards with Qi 2.0. We are investing in top-notch equipment and really making advances, particularly in China. User experience is key here to encourage more people to embrace wireless charging. The software we are developing makes sure the transmitter and receiver pair up smoothly, and thanks to the Qi standard, you can use different devices interchangeably, which makes charging your phone with any wireless transmitter a breeze.
Q. What’s new in Motor Control?
A. We’re at the forefront with advanced technology and intellectual properties, especially in the car electrification space. Switching gears to other types of motor control, let’s talk about refrigerators. Our ST Spin 32 solution, paired with our voltage MOSFET, is a super-success as an inverter solution. You won’t believe it, but within just six months, we have grabbed about a quarter of the market share in China!
Q. Who owns the IP from competence centres? Is it handed over to the customer?
A. Every solution starts with a request, which is generally initiated by a customer. We then sign a confidentiality agreement and get to work. If new intellectual properties emerge, we share them with the customer for free, as long as they purchase the products outlined in the Bill of Materials. Essentially, they get the IP at no extra cost if they buy the agreed upon materials.
Q. How is STMicroelectronics working towards sustainability?
A. Well, when you look at our market, everyone is working towards becoming carbon neutral. We are actually doing pretty well in that aspect. As of 2022, more than half of our electric energy, about 51%, is coming from renewable sources. It’s not like we generate all that green energy at our facilities; instead, we buy it from local providers. They usually charge a bit more for clean energy, but we think it’s worth it.