Sunday, 13 June 2021

“A watershed moment”: South Korea ramps up semiconductor industry funding

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Friday 14 May 21

Samsung has pledged to invest $150 billion by 2030, with the rest of the industry and the government set to provide another $300 billion in investment

Initiated by the coronavirus pandemic and galvanised by geopolitical tensions, the ongoing semiconductor shortage has seen various markets re-examine their supply chains and consider the future of their domestic tech industry.   Under the weight of US sanctions, the Chinese semiconductor market is accelerating rapidly. Facilitated by favourable government policies, including various tax breaks, investment is soaring;  roughly $3.8 billion was invested in Q2 2020 alone…

Initiated by the coronavirus pandemic and galvanised by geopolitical tensions, the ongoing semiconductor shortage has seen various markets re-examine their supply chains and consider the future of their domestic tech industry.
 
Under the weight of US sanctions, the Chinese semiconductor market is accelerating rapidly. Facilitated by favourable government policies, including various tax breaks, investment is soaring;  roughly $3.8 billion was invested in Q2 2020 alone, representing a ten-fold increase in investment compared to the previous year. While still behind the likes of Europe and the US in terms of the latest 5nm and 7nm technologies, the industry’s capabilities are increasing quickly, with some suggesting that the industry may in face become self-reliant by the end of 2022.
 
In Europe, Economic Commissioner Thierry Breton recently spoke to executives from Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) in an effort to have the major chip players build foundries in Europe, to help build up the continent’s domestic industry. This ‘Eurofab’ concept has seemingly generated some momentum with Intel, with CEO Pat Gelsinger suggesting the company would need $9 billion in subsidies to move forward. The TSMC discussions, by contrast, appear to have lead nowhere. 
 
However, this may be, at least in part, because TSMC is instead looking to the US to expand its chip factory empire. Last year the Taiwan-based company announced plans to invest $10–$12 billion to build a chip foundry in Arizona, at the time noting that this could be the first of many. Now, reports suggest that TSMC may be looking to build a second, more advanced foundry in the US, which would be able to build the most advanced 3nm technologies and would cost up to $25 billion to build.
 
Now, South Korea is beginning to unveil its plan to become a major player in the future of the global semiconductor industry, today announcing a plan to invest $450 billion in the technology by 2030.
 
The national blueprint, devised by president Moon Jae-in’s government, will see 153 companies take part in the national industry acceleration, with Samsung set to lead the charge by increasing investment by 30%, representing around a third of the overall total.
 
“Major global competitors are pressing ahead with massive investment to be the first to take the future market,” said president Moon in a speech. “Our companies have been taking risks and innovating as well and have completed preparations for tumultuous times.”
 
It should be noted that Samsung’s push into the semiconductor market is not only a domestic project, with the company already having announced plans to build a new $17 billion factory in Austin, Texas. 
 
“The entire semiconductor industry is facing a watershed moment and now is the time to chart out a plan for long-term strategy and investment,” said Dr Kinam Kim, Vice Chairman and Head of Device Solutions Division at Samsung. “For the memory business, where Samsung has maintained its undisputed leadership position, the company will continue to make pre-emptive investments to lead the industry.”
 
 
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