Abu Dhabi: In the next five years, and as part of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 to become a leader in the semiconductor industry, 27,000 engineers, technicians and Emirati graduates are expected to be recruited in the field, said a senior official from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).

Twenty-eight papers covering 33 topics will be presented to UAE-based professors and students during the fifth International Design and Test Workshop (IDT'10) which started yesterday.

They will cover all aspects of semiconductor technologies and processes in order to create an advanced technology cluster, a manufacturing plant and a hub for the semiconductors chip manufacturing industry in Abu Dhabi by 2016.

Semi-conductors are a strategic priority sector in which Abu Dhabi has invested in since the Abu Dhabi based company, Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), became a major shareholder in Global Foundries (a semiconductor product company), which has branches in Germany, Singapore and New York.

The three-square-kilometre cluster, the first of its kind in the Arab world, is expected to be located adjacent to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

It is expected to serve the Middle Eastern technology and manufacturing region through capital-intensive, advanced technologies.

In late 2009, ATIC also acquired Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing of Singapore, one of the world's top dedicated semiconductor foundries, which offers technologies down to 40/45 nanometer (nm), enabling today's system-on-chip designs.

"These partnerships led us to becoming the third ranked in the world in contract manufacturing of semiconductor chips. In our aim to work parallel to that initiative, and to keep up with a global facility to be introduced by 2016, we need to introduce a competitive education system for electrical engineering students in the UAE in order to enable them to take part in creating a world class research ecosystem," said Walid Ali, senior project manager at the Abu Dhabi Ecosystem Development Unit at ATIC.

In correlation with the initiative, ADEC plans to infuse science and technology applications in the K12 curriculum as part of efforts to develop UAE human capital specialised in technology.

"This conference is a step towards creating and linking the output of education to the labour market. Semiconductors will be a major employer in the economy, that's why we have invited hundreds of students to learn from international experts, specialised in designing and testing semiconductors," said Dr Rafic Zein Makki.

"If today Abu Dhabi has 500 per million people doing research, with time we expect to reach 4,300 per million of the population, similar to the numbers in developed countries," he added.

"We will do that by increasing the number of scientists, and building up indigenous communities through attracting Emiratis to pursue careers in scientific research. ADEC is currently offering 1,000 student scholarships in that area."

According to Yervant Zorian, chief architect of Synopsys and founder of the annual IDT, the fabrication of semiconductor chips industry stands at $5 billion today.

"Semiconductor chips are the essence of what we do today, whether you're using your computer, cell phone, car or television. Chips are becoming more complex," he said.

"One chip contains one billion transistors. The number of chips that a person uses today gets multiplied over time very fast, that's why society as a whole has to be ready to keep up with the fast pace. Abu Dhabi is not only expected to be a major player in that field, but is working in parallel to it, by investing in its students," Zorian said.


BOX: Ali Rashed Al Ketbi - Assistant Secretary-General of the Public Administration Sector at the General Secretariat of the Executive Council, speaks to Gulf News about the initiative, he says:

"The Abu Dhabi Education Council from an academic perspective is interested in strengthening research in the education system in order to create a knowledge based society familiar with technology. Semiconductors will play a major role in the UAE economy, that's why we will include it in our school curriculums. We have already started to encourage top performing students to enter the field by offering them scholarships, and by inviting students from UAE based universities to today's workshop, in hope they learn more about semiconductors and the industry as a whole."