A market demand survey for a 4.6 billion won ($3.8 million) semiconductor policy initiative endorsed by the Moon Jae-in administration has come under suspicion of being rigged.
According to confidential data secured by The Elec this week, the survey for the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tool project was conducted by the SW-SoC Integration R&D Center of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.
EDA is expensive software that is absolutely necessary for designing semiconductors.
Taken in June, about 75% of the EDA tools in the survey are supplied by Synopsys. Only eight were from Mentor, a Siemens Business, while Cadence Design Systems accounted for four. The names of these suppliers, however, were omitted from the survey, triggering suspicion that ETRI was trying to hide the manufacturers.
“Only a limited number of suppliers were included as options in the survey, meaning the companies not on the list have a very slim chance of being chosen for the project,” said an industry watcher.
At the same time, ETRI failed to include chip design houses for the survey, despite that together with fabless facilities, they form a major part of designing semiconductors. The design houses are now vowing to take collaborative action.
ETRI, however, said there was no problem.
“We put together the list based on the tools that are used most frequently,” said Joo Yoo-sang, an executive at the ETRI SW-SoC R&D center. He also argued that there’s a section where respondents can submit the design tools of their choice.
But the industry appears to feel different, especially due to phrases in the survey that seem to guide the respondents towards Synopsys.
The EDA project is handled by the Ministry of Science & ICT. The government approved a supplementary budget of 4.6 billion won to give the fabless firms wider access to expensive designing tools. It was a part of President Moon Jae-in’s policy initiatives announced in April for supporting the system semiconductor industry. At the time, the government said it would seek to boost the global market share of South Korean fabless companies to 10% by 2030.
The EDA market is currently 98% dominated by Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor, a Siemens Business.
The Elec is South Korea’s No.1 tech news platform.