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Taking the IC designer to the top

Posted: 25 Jan 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Chu Yiren  Tianjin Innova Microelectronic Technology  power management ICs 

Chu: For circuit design, the power area is one that will never decline.

IC designer Chu Yiren has achieved his dream of setting-up a successful IC business in China. It hasn't been a smooth-sailing journey, but this man who once hoped to become a physicist has traveled many miles to get where he's now: general manager, chief engineer and technical director of Tianjin Innova Microelectronic Technology Co. Ltd. Chu's effective career management is worth studying, especially for those who hope to pursue a high-technology career.

Chu went to the United States in the early 1990s to study nuclear physics at Washington State University. As a student, he noticed the success of the IC market and decided to shift courses and study mixed IC design instead of physics. He graduated in 1994 and started his career as an RFIC designer with Philips Semiconductor US Co. Ltd. He was involved in the design of the first 2.7g CDMA baseband chip under Robert Meyer. He was involved too, and at times led, in the R&D and design of several large SoC chips, including television and computer image processors, LCD TV format conversion and display control chips.

Powering up
In 1998, Chu joined Volterra Semiconductor Corp., a U.S. power management IC design company as chief of power management design. During that period, he came up with the idea of using a switch capacitor instead of a compensation capacitor in power conversion chips. This design innovation greatly improved system response speed for the power ICs.

To learn more about IC technologies and market, Chu joined Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in October 1999. His stint at Chartered gave him a chance to see how other semiconductor companies design from a macro-level. He organised the development of an analogue circuit design platform that reduced the duration of the design cycle by 50 per cent. His efforts gained many customers for Chartered Semiconductor.

By October 2000, Chu felt prepared, with his solid technology expertise, rich market experience and management skills, to go into business. He established Adaptive RF. However, 2000 was a bad year for IT companies and, with the bursting of the bubble, many start-ups had to shut down, including Adaptive RF.

Road to riches
What is the lesson learned? The way to grow in electronics was to get into high-end consumer electronic products, represented by high-performance TVs. And how to get there? Chu went to work for Trident Microsystems Inc., a company that designs, develops and markets SoC solutions for the DTV and AV multimedia PCs. Chu was responsible for the development of a wide range of chips, focusing on the integration of more features in their SoCs to gain an edge over competitors.

By 2005, Chu was ready to go home and pursue his dream of a high-technology company in China. Tianjin Innova Microelectronic Technology Co. Ltd was established in 2006 with Chu at the helm. The company is focusing on power management chips because, says Chu, "As for circuit design, the power area is one that will never decline. With the development of technology, the probability of integration of power chips into the master chips is becoming lower while the power density of power management continuously increases, which puts forward a new demand for power structure." A year old, the company is already producing high-speed video signal modulus conversion chips for high-resolution TVs. It is also producing maximum power output tracing systems for solar batteries.

Chu Yiren, once a foreign physics student in the U.S., is now a very successful high-technology businessperson in China. He reached his dream because he effectively managed his career.

Richard Zhang
EE Times

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