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Wang Xi: outstanding scientist and entrepreneur

(en.sh-italent.com)Updated : 2018-08-10

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Wang Xi, director of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, holds an 8-inch silicon wafer. [Photo/sh-italent.cn]

Wang Xi, a renowned Chinese expert in semiconductor material science and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is both a scientist with a global vision and a pioneering, innovative, and practical-minded entrepreneur in many people's eyes.

Wang, now director of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT), has been working on research on silicon integrated circuit-related technology for three decades since his graduation from the Department of Engineering Physics of Tsinghua University in 1987, and has been working at the SIMIT since 1998.

After years of perseverance, Wang achieved success in developing silicon on insulator (SOI) technology.

In July 2001, he proposed initiating the industrial implementation of the technology and established the Shanghai Simgui Technology Co to realize the goal, the start of the transition for Wang from a scientist to an entrepreneur.

Around five months later, China's first SOI factory was built, bringing at long last some competition to the long dominating Silicon Valley in the United States.  

In 2006, the technology was awarded the first prize of the National Science and Technology Progress Award.

In 2015, the SIMIT developed the SOI-based silicon photonic chip, which showed the highest level of technological integration at that time.

In February 2016, the country's new-generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite was equipped with the SOI chip, which can reduce the negative influence of space radiation on the satellite and prevent it from malfunctioning.

Moreover, Wang also worked on meeting the domestic demand of the production and R&D of large-size silicon wafers. He and Zhang Rujing, founder of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, proposed initiating the R&D of a 12-inch silicon wafer in Shanghai in June 2013, in hope of reducing China's dependence on the import of silicon wafers and promoting the development of a domestic integrated circuit industry.

As a result, the Shanghai Xinsheng Semiconductor Technology Co was founded in June 2014, with its plant being constructed in around a year, and the country's first 12-inch silicon ingot being developed by the company in 2016. In the second half of 2017, the 12-inch silicon wafer went into mass production and nearly 100,000 pieces were sold.

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Wang Xi is working with his colleagues on certain scientific issues. [Photo/sh-italent.cn]

Wang has also proven himself to be a great industrial innovator. He insisted on developing silicon photonics in 2008 despite widespread cynicism. These days, however, the silicon photonic platform of SIMIT is world leading.

He also decided to set up the QST Corp in 2012, specializing in sensor making, due to the importance of sensors in Internet of Things technology and the weakness of the industry in China.

Additionally, he recently instigated the R&D of magnetic storage chip technology because many domestic companies suffered losses from the rising price of storage devices last year.

Wang has admitted that he has more ability in the industrial implementation of technologies compared to conducting scientific research.

The Simgui Technology Co he built now has a market value of 1.3 billion yuan ($188.4 million), 100-fold of the assets at the time it was founded.

The Xinsheng Semiconductor Technology Co now has a monthly output of tens of thousands of 300mm silicon wafers and its production capacity is predicted to double next year.

The French silicon material manufacturer Soitec was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2016, but Wang eyed the potential of its production capacity of silicon material and decided to invest in the foreign company. Now its share price has risen to 70 euros ($75), compared to 9.2 euros when he first invested, a return on investment of 600 percent.

Wang has also said that he has a dream of enabling scientists to conduct scientific research without distractions.

Therefore, he has been working on mechanism innovation including the use of scientific research funds since he was appointed as the head of Zhangjiang Lab, a national scientific facility in Shanghai, which commenced operations last September and which focuses on photonic science, life science, information technology, and brain-inspired intelligence.

"People who know nothing fear nothing. I used to be like this. But now although there are difficulties, I am passionate when I see we are going in the right direction," said Wang, who remains passionate and optimistic about the future.