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Science

Japan, Belgium to Cooperate in Chip Production, Development

December 6, 2022

TOKYO — A newly founded Japanese semiconductor company aiming to revive Japan’s chip industry will collaborate with a Belgian research organization in research and development of next-generation chips for production in Japan.

Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that the new company, Rapidus, which was launched last month by eight corporate giants including automakers, electronics and chipmakers, will team up with the Imec, a Leuven, Belgium-based research organization known for the nanoelectronics and digital technologies key to developing next-generation chips.

“Cooperation with Imec in the area of semiconductor production at its international research facility, which ranks as one of Europe’s best, is extremely meaningful,” Nishimura told reporters Tuesday ahead of a signing event expected later in the day.

Imec is known for its expertise and technology needed to make so-called “post-5G” chips that require miniaturization and extremely-thin production circuits. The collaboration would help Rapidus develop and mass produce such chips by 2027. The tie-up is the first known deal for Rapidus.

The Japanese consortium was founded in November with eight member companies with the aim of boosting home-made chip production to change Japan’s heavy reliance on imported chips as part of the government push to strengthen economic security. Its members include automaker Toyota Motor Corp., electronics makers Sony Group Corp. and NEC Corp.; SoftBank Corp., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and computer memory maker Kioxia.

Japan’s government is spending 70 billion yen ($510 million) on measures to promote domestic manufacturing of chips, while working closely with its ally the United States.

Once a global leader in semiconductor development and production, Japan was slow to collaborate with foreign companies in developing more advanced technologies and fell behind global competitors including the U.S., Taiwan, South Korea and some European countries.

Rapidus plans to send engineers to Imec and forge ties with other research labs and companies outside Japan.

The pandemic and escalating U.S.-China tensions have highlighted the risks of Japan’s reliance on foreign suppliers, especially China, prompting the country to focus on building up its own manufacturing capacity.

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