[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil is set to deliver its first batch of locally-produced microchips in a few days time (April 27). The country hopes this marks a turning point for its electronics industry and wider development.
The Design Centre of the Centre of Excellence for Advanced Electronic Technology (Ceitec), in Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul state, will deliver 15,000 industrial control and automation chips to a local company. And it plans to produce many more for both national and international markets.
The company's factory will be formally opened in July — Ceitec says it is the first of its kind in Latin America.
Ceitec, itself launched last year, is a public company allied to the Ministry of Science and Technology. It aims to generate wealth through intellectual property, attract skilled workers to Brazil and foster growth in the electronics industry — some US$4 billion of the country's deficit is attributed to the trade balance in this sector.
"Any chip developed and produced by Ceitec brings two great benefits to Brazil," said a spokesperson. "The first one is the intellectual property: whoever wants to produce these chips will pay royalties to Ceitec (a public institution), generating wealth for the country. The second is that consolidating a national chip industry will allow the electronics industry to mature in Brazil. "
In 2008 Ceitec developed the first high-tech chip entirely produced in Brazil — for cattle. It helps farmers to monitor their animals more precisely, hopefully opening up rigorously regulated markets, such as the European Union, where farmers can sell their products at a higher price.
In June, the cattle chip will be tested in ten thousand steers on selected Brazilian farms.
"Ceitec activities fall into two categories: the development of chips in the Design Center and the semiconductor production in the factory," says Eduard Weichselbaumer, the company's president. “Although the market for these products in Brazil is still small, the global market moves around US$250 billion every year."
He says the centre will specialise in radio frequency identification, wireless communication and digital multimedia.
Brazil's federal government has invested nearly US$160 million in Ceitec.