Chip design for multinationals

Chip design for multinationals

Several Greek high-tech companies are designing microchips for smartwatches produced by global electronics giants Google, Xiaomi, Samsung and others, as well as for other applications.

Many of these firms have been acquired by foreign multinationals with turnover of billions of dollars. Prime examples are Think Silicon, acquired by US firm Applied Materials in 2020, and Helic, bought by Ansys, also a US firm, in 2019.

Another company, China’s Zepp Health, is creating a research and development center in Greece through its subsidiary Whale Microelectronics.

Nikos Moschopoulos, who will head the center, told Kathimerini it will be in the Athens area, most likely the suburb of Kallithea.

At present, there is a founding team of 11 members, many of whom came from another Greek startup, Dialog. Several scientists who left Greece as part of the notorious brain drain that intensified during the financial crisis of the early 2010s have expressed interest in returning and working for the R&D center, which is expected to produce, among other things, microchips for Zepp’s smartwatches.

Moschopoulos, a veteran of Greece’s high-tech startup ecosystem, recalled its beginnings some 20-25 years ago and how some of these firms are now attracting the attention of the giant multinationals. Moschopoulos himself started at Atmel, a company with offices in Athens and Patra that specialized in building integrated circuits for wireless networks.

“At some point, we were controlling 20% of the global market for such chips,” he says. “The microchips themselves were produced in Taiwan but were designed in Greece.”

Moschopoulos likens Atmel to the Greek high-tech ecosystem’s Big Bank: Many people who worked there left to start their own companies, many in the semiconductors sector. According to the Hellenic Emerging Technologies Industry Association (HETiA), there are at least 15 such companies in Greece, employing over 500.

One such company, Dialog Semiconductor, built the chips that provide electric current to Apple products. It also developed a series of products based on bluetooth low energy whose turnover came to €90 million at end-2020; in 2021 Dialog was acquired by Japan’s Renesas for €4.8 billion.

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