Posted: 22.03.2023 09:08:00

The countries with the technology will determine the rules of the game

The strategy and tactics of the development of Belarusian microelectronics were discussed in detail during the visit of the Head of State Aleksandr Lukashenko to the Planar holding company in Minsk. Immediately upon arrival, the President paid attention to the huge premises occupied by the holding company in Minsk and asked the Planar management about plans to develop the production site. The Head of State was told about the development strategy of enterprises that make part of the holding company, about import substitution and co-operation with the Russian Federation. A number of plans in this field have already been successfully implemented.

The company pays special attention to the production of photomasks that are a key element in the manufacturing of integrated circuits. The company boasts world-class products. It makes seven types of basic equipment, and for each type of this equipment it has from one to five competitors from the EU countries, the USA, and Japan.
In 2022, the company’s revenue amounted to about Br57.5 million, up 21 percent over 2021. The net profit reached almost Br26.4 million (with a target of Br12.2 million). The return on sales was almost 13 percent. In 2022, Planar grew its exports by 70 percent.
The localisation level at the holding company is 60-80 percent. 
“We have our own optical production, stone processing and precision mechanics, too,” Planar Director General Sergei Avakov explained.
Another promising avenue of work is the production of semiconductor wafers. Work is underway to upgrade the production base in co-operation with partners. It is important not only to produce this or that product, but to make it as compact and efficient as possible. Every nanometre counts when it comes to production efficiency and cost.
The President toured the production facilities, where he was briefed on the holding company’s most popular products and promising developments. A number of solutions that were demonstrated to the President are the world’s best in their market segment. In addition to production, human resources were also discussed. The Head of State asked whether there are enough qualified personnel and how the company approaches staff replenishment issues.
Aleksandr Lukashenko convened a meeting at the Minsk-based Planar holding company to discuss development prospects of the country’s microelectronics industry. The Head of State noted that today microelectronics is one of the focuses of the world’s attention, including in the post-Soviet space, 
“The struggle to remain on the cutting-edge of this industry and the fight for microelectronics markets are among key reasons for military clashes. That is how important this industry is. Our meeting is taking place in a symbolic and historical venue. Planar was the birthplace of the Soviet microelectronics industry in the 1960s.”
The Head of State shared an interesting story related to the Planar company. The famous native of Belarus, Nobel Prize laureate Zhores Alferov once recalled his conversation with the USSR Minister of Electronic`s Industry Vladislav Kolesnikov that took place in the 1980s. The latter said, “I have waken up today sweating, I had a nightmare that Planar ceased to exist, and there is no electronics industry in the USSR without this company.”
“That says it all. It was really the heart of the entire electronics industry. The key skill sets in this industry were accumulated at the company. When this breakthrough industry was at its nascent stage, only America, the Soviet Union and Japan had sufficient intellectual and financial resources to keep it on its feet. Back then we also had related enterprises, in particular in Russia and the Baltic states, but its brain and its heart were in Belarus,” the President emphasised.

Yet, during the heady days of perestroika and post-perestroika periods, only Belarus managed to preserve this legacy, which was not even national, but global legacy, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasised, “I remember very well how they were pushing me to sell, to shut down these enterprises. They said they would buy, import everything from the West. Thank God, no matter how difficult it was, the country retained Planar, Integral, BelOMO, Horizont, and the Vitebsk-based Monolith. Most importantly, we preserved the research infrastructure of this science-intensive industry. 30 years have passed. What do we see? 
In the struggle for the re-division of the world, technology plays a decisive role. The one who possesses it will not only survive, but will call the shots in the future. The so-called civilised, democratic Western world will not hesitate for a second to use technology as a leverage, to impose sanctions, to try to bring unwelcome states that compete with them to their knees.”
When it comes to microelectronics, you cannot just compete and isolate yourself within national borders, the Head of State emphasised.
“Belarusian manufacturers have retained their niche in the world market that has already set its eyes on nanoelectronics, not even microelectronics. As of today, several countries have already mastered the 4 nm process. Our fairly large chips remain in demand. They are reliable. But, as I see it, we need to move away from large chips towards nanometre technology,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Unique products are being created in Belarus in co-operation with the domestic civil and defence industries, the Head of State noted. These are drones, robots, NC machines, fundamentally new types of weapons, world-class household appliances and much more.
“Therefore, the field for work and further development is huge. Our primary focus is Russia. Our country has all the necessary skill sets to meet the needs of the Russian market after the departure of Western enterprises. It’s a chance for us. We must seize it. Rosatom, Roscosmos, Roselectronics... The volume of partnership agreements should grow,” the President set the task.
According to the Head of State, investors also show tremendous interest in Belarusian microelectronics, 
“My recent visit to Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates is a direct confirmation of this. They are ready to co-operate with us and want to invest in our industry, including microelectronics. Moreover, the amount of money is not an issue. Good financial investments are an opportunity to radically modernise the production base, develop new technologies and, as a result, increase exports.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that Belarus and Russia have compiled a list of electronic components of critical importance and Belarusian enterprises have already started shipping them. In June 2022 Aleksandr Lukashenko already held a conference to discuss the development of the Belarusian microelectronics industry. Some progress has already been secured.
Belarus and Russia have compiled a list of critical components, which will be manufactured by Belarusian enterprises and a roadmap on mastering their production has been worked out.
“We’ve already started shipping a number of parts to Russian enterprises. An agreement has been signed on setting up a Belarusian-Russian joint centre for the development and production of photolithographic masks. It will enable joint R&D work and will reduce the dependence of Belarusian and Russian consumers on imports,” the President said.
The government has also approved a programme to guide the development of Belarus’ microelectronics industry till 2030. The Head of State said he wanted a report on how well-calculated and ambitious the prospects and the current approach to the future development of the industry are. 
Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Parkhomchik shared that Belarus intends to more than triple earnings from selling microelectronic products by 2030.
“Total sales from selling Belarusian microelectronic and electronic machine-building products will rise to $200 million in 2025. It will reach $330-350 million by 2030. It will be 3.3 times up from 2021. I’d like to stress that these are minimal targets,” Deputy Prime Minister said.
“The key thing I am worried about is that scientists, product engineers, and people on the ground have to understand what needs to be done and where we should go. If we have people like that, then we will always find money for it. And we have people like that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko summarised.

Based on materials of and
Photos by BELTA