Ghe new Japanese government has only just appointed a minister for economic security for the first time. The government is already planning to promote the establishment of a new, ultra-modern semiconductor factory for computer chips in Japan.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is considering building a chip factory for around $ 7 billion in Kumamoto on the southwestern main island of Kyushu, according to Japanese media reports. The government plans to subsidize the investment up to half of the financial volume, it is said. The first funding for this is to be made available in the supplementary budget that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida commissioned a few days after taking office.
For TSMC, it would be the first semiconductor factory in Japan. In the United States, the company is already building a $ 12 billion factory in Arizona that is scheduled to begin mass production in the first quarter of 2024. In February, TSMC announced the construction of a research center in Ibaraki, a neighboring prefecture of Tokyo.
In return for the subsidy, the Tokyo government is demanding that Japanese customers receive preferential delivery from the new semiconductor factory, it said. With the planned financial support, the government of Kishida is taking up a plan of the previous government.
According to reports, the Japanese electronics company Sony is to participate in the TSMC investment as a smaller partner. Sony already has a large factory for the production of image sensors in Kumamoto. With these sensors, the company dominates the deliveries for smartphones. Image sensors from Sony are also becoming increasingly important in cars with the first functions for autonomous driving. TSMC and Sony did not comment on the reports.
TSMC had already shown interest in investing in Japan in July and emphasized that such decisions were dependent on whether they were worthwhile. The concentration of state-of-the-art semiconductor production by TSMC and other companies in Taiwan is due, among other things, to the fact that the concentration of factories has produced a concentration of technical knowledge and appropriately qualified engineers. Overcoming these advantages in order to set up semiconductor factories elsewhere, costs financial support from governments in case of doubt.
Combined image and computing chips
In the midst of a global semiconductor shortage that is curtailing the production of automakers and electronics manufacturers, the United States, Europe and Japan are showing increasing interest in maintaining or rebuilding semiconductor production in the country. In this way, they could also ensure supplies for the armaments industry.
Japan used to be a leader in chip production but has lost ground. The world market share was recently around 10 percent. Japan imports 64 percent of its semiconductor requirements, although it still has more than 84 domestic semiconductor factories. Japanese companies are still the most important players in the world market for many intermediate products for the production of semiconductors.
Kumamoto as the location of the new factory opened up advantages in the agglomeration, precisely because Sony already produces semiconductors there. A recent development from Sony combines image sensors on the back with logic chips. This means that image data can be processed directly in the two-part chip unit.
Sony wants to develop an “ecosystem” around this technology with its own marketplace on which developers offer software programs for specific applications. As a great advantage of the combined image and computing chips, Sony emphasizes that data processing directly on the image sensor means that surveillance cameras, for example, would have to transfer far less data to cloud-based computing systems. The electronics manufacturer calculates large savings from this.