Toyota, Denso, IBM cooperate to boost Japan’s chip competitiveness

At the same time, companies are looking to alternative sources for advanced chips as more companies seek to disengage from Chinese suppliers for logistical and geopolitical reasons.

But moving forward on the microchip front comes at a huge cost.

In February, Denso and Sony announced that they would become minority shareholders in a semiconductor factory under construction in Kumamoto prefecture. This $8.6 billion factory is majority owned by his TSMC of Taiwan, where he is one of the world’s leading semiconductor makers. Production is scheduled to start in 2024, contributing to stable supply to Japanese companies.

Rapidus builds on the continued collaboration of US-Japan collaborative research and is being touted by Tokyo as a path for Japanese industry to return to the race as the world leader in semiconductors.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry points out the potential of quantum technology and artificial intelligence for Rapidus, saying, “Next-generation semiconductors are core technologies that will bring about great innovation.” While collaborating with other research institutes and industry, the domestic academia and industry will work together.”

In 2021, IBM announced it had developed the world’s first 2-nanometer node chip. This is projected to achieve 45% better performance and 75% higher energy efficiency than current 7-nanometer chips.

Analysts say the ability to develop 2-nanometer technology is dominated by a small segment of global players led by IBM, Intel, Samsung and TSMC.

Samsung faces potential supply risks due to its location on the politically divided Korean Peninsula, while TSMC may face threats from mainland China.

Rapidus aims to build on IBM’s core technology and implement it in Japanese fabs. Mass production is expected to start in the late 2020s.

Toyota, Denso and other partners have so far agreed to invest 7.3 billion yen ($53.4 million) in Rapidus.

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