Sony and Toyota team up to boost Japan’s semiconductor capabilities

Some of the biggest tech companies in the Japan are joining forces in a $500 million (€694 million) project launched by the host government to cement Japan’s status as a leader in advanced semiconductors.

Sony, SoftBank and Toyota are among companies working with chipmakers on a new initiative called “Rapidus” that aims to design and develop the new chips by the end of the decade, according to the European Commission report . The Wall Street Journal. The diversity of companies involved reflects the wide variety of chips needed to power the advanced computers, AI systems and self-driving cars that are expected to come of age in the near future. This initiative marks the clearest will of Japan to maintain its place in the world race for semiconductors, which has been mainly dominated by United Statesthe China and Taiwan these last years.

Citing other countries’ continued investment in semiconductors, Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura cast Japan’s investment in the technology as a national security concern.

“As the fight for control of technology between the United States and China intensifies, the importance of semiconductors grows from an economic security perspective,” Nishimura said, according to the report of the European Commission. The newspaper.

For companies like Toyota and Sony, this initiative is an opportunity to play a more active role in their own supply chains. This is interesting because it means that, over time, these companies could protect themselves from global supply chain shocks that could threaten their production. This possibility is only too real.she for Toyota, which has cut its production plan by half a million vehicles this year due to chip shortages. These supply shortages also partly explain why it’s still so difficult to buy a new Sony Playstation 5 two years after its release.

Japan’s roughly half a billion dollar investment may be remarkable domestically, but it pales in comparison to other recent chip investments in the United States and other regions. Earlier this year, members of the US Congress put partisan bickering aside to pass the CHIPS Act, which commits $52 billion to incentivize chipmakers to increase semiconductor production in the United States. United. The legislation also includes provisions to create tax credits to accelerate investment and a new fund to encourage innovation.

Private companies had already made their own spending commitments before the CHIPS law. At the height of the pandemic and related semiconductor shortage, Taiwanese chipmaker giant TSMC announced that it would spend US$12 billion to build a semiconductor factory. peak in Arizona. This summer, another Taiwanese chipmaker, GlobalWafers, announced that it would spend $5 billion to build a new 300 millimeter silicon wafer factory in Texas. The construction of this factory would have started in September. However, all of that would pale in comparison to the US$200 billion ($278 billion) that Samsung hopes to spend over the next two decades building chip factories in Texas.

At the same time, several European countries and China have all announced initiatives aimed at accelerating the manufacture of their own chips. Each of these countries and some private sector chipmakers are responding in part to a glaring supply problem, made painfully evident during the pandemic. Tech companies across the industry are still picking up the pieces from the shortage that has highlighted the industry’s reliance on a handful of manufacturers mostly located in Taiwan and China.

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