Japan hopes to join the ranks of countries producing cutting-edge 2nm chips as soon as 2025, and it is working with the United States to make those ambitions a reality.
Nikkei reported on Wednesday that companies from the two countries will jointly seek the design and manufacture of such components for devices ranging from smartphones to servers under a “bilateral chip technology partnership” between America and Japan. .
The report comes less than a month after U.S. and Japanese leaders said they would collaborate on next-generation semiconductors as part of a broader deal that also calls for “the protection and promotion of technologies critical, including through the use of export controls”.
Although Nikkei did not specify which companies would be involved, the newspaper said a facility could start this summer and a research and manufacturing center could open between 2025 and 2027. This fab could be established thanks to the creation of a joint venture between Japanese and American companies or a new manufacturing center by local companies, according to Nikkei.
Either way, the project will receive grants to help defray research and development costs as well as capital expenditures from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, according to the report.
The plan reflects a growing desire by countries with high-tech industries to have greater control over their supply chains for chips and other components as the world continues to face shortages. Having direct access to cutting-edge chips can also be a competitive advantage.
The kind of chips Japan is looking to produce will use a 2nm manufacturing process, a few generations ahead of 5nm, the most advanced node currently used in products like Apple’s M1 chips for Mac and Samsung’s Exynos processors for smartphones. Reducing a chip’s transistors can result in faster, more efficient chips once manufacturing challenges are overcome.
While Japan is not home to Samsung in South Korea, TSMC in Taiwan and Intel in the United States – the semiconductor giants that plan to introduce 2nm or equivalent nodes in the 2024-2025 schedule – the country is home to chip material suppliers such as Shin-Etsu Chemical and Sumco.
TSMC is already building a factory in Japan, but the factory will only manufacture chips with older nodes ranging from 10nm to 20nm, according to Nikkei.
With a new US technology partnership, Japan could gain access to Intel and IBM, which is also developing its own 2nm technology, as well as chip materials supplier Applied Materials. The United States is also home to fabulous equipment manufacturer Lam Research.
Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology is already conducting collaborative research on advanced chip technologies, including 2nm, with participation from Intel, TSMC and IBM. Japanese manufacturing equipment makers Tokyo Electron and Canon are also participating.
The new US-Japan partnership is another example of how some countries and regions are turning to working with other nations to build a stronger semiconductor base. After all, the United States and Europe are trying to forge closer ties with the chip-making paradise of Taiwan, and Russia is increasingly looking to source chips from China after losing access to foreign processor manufacturers Intel and AMD. ®