Next-generation semiconductors: Japan puts 500 million euros on the table

Japan announced on Friday an investment of nearly half a billion euros in a new project intended to produce next-generation semiconductors in the country and bringing together large Japanese groups.

The Japanese government has promised to inject 70 billion yen (483 million euros), while eight private companies including Sony, Toyota, SoftBank Group or NTT must invest one billion yen each (6.9 million euros) , said the Japanese Ministry of Industry.

A new company called Rapidus will be created, and will engage in research, development and manufacturing of next-generation semiconductors to “enhance the competitiveness of Japanese industry” in this field, according to the ministry.

Production should start by 2030 for these electronic chips engraved with a fineness of 2 nanometers, used in particular in quantum computers – which perform calculations much faster than conventional machines – and artificial intelligence.

Greater thinness allows more components to be concentrated in a smaller space, increasing performance and reducing power consumption of semiconductors.

The Japanese equipment manufacturer Denso and the electronics and computer groups Kioxia, Tokyo Electron and NEC, must also invest in the project.

The strategic stake of semiconductors, present in computers, smartphones, cars, data servers or game consoles, has been further confirmed by the shortages linked in particular to the pandemic, which have disrupted global supply chains since 2020.

“Everyone has probably felt the importance of semiconductors in recent years,” Rapidus Chairman Atsuyoshi Koike said Friday at a press conference. “The decline of the Japanese semiconductor industry was also of growing concern,” he added.

Geopolitical tensions around China have also raised awareness in industrialized countries of the need to produce these essential components locally, mainly imported from Taiwan and South Korea.

The Japanese Sony had thus announced in November 2021 an investment in the future mega-factory of semiconductors that the world giant of the sector, the Taiwanese TSMC, is building in the south-west of Japan, and whose production must start from here. end of 2024.

Japan has also approached its American ally this year in research and development on next-generation semiconductors.

The European Commission announced earlier this year a 43 billion euro plan to reduce Europe’s dependence on Asia, while US President Joe Biden pushed through a law to invest 52 billion dollars in this area, which he made a matter of “national security”.

The United States also enacted new rules in October aimed at limiting the export of American semiconductors and equipment for this sector, in order to complicate their purchases and their manufacture by China, against the backdrop of a fierce technological rivalry between the two economic superpowers.

On Wednesday, Germany blocked the takeover of two of its factories in this sector by Chinese investors, saying it wanted to reduce its dependence on Beijing and “prevent the leak of key technologies and protect German infrastructure and production capacities”. .

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Next-generation semiconductors: Japan puts 500 million euros on the table

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