The American corporation IBM has pledged its support to Rapidus Corp., a chipmaking startup in Japan, recognizing its significance in securing the long-term global supply of chips.
As part of the recently formed Japanese consortium Rapidus, IBM will serve as the technology provider, enabling the production of 2-nm chips within Japan by 2027. IBM’s Japanese office believes that competitors like TSMC and Samsung will welcome the emergence of a third player in the market, offering services for producing 2-nm products.
Rapidus, initially established as a quasi-public initiative last year, aims to strengthen Japan’s domestic chip manufacturing capabilities amid increasing global tensions and protectionist measures.
With the government’s backing, the project is led by experienced individuals from the semiconductor supply chain, including Atsuyoshi Koike, former Japan president of Western Digital Corp, and Tetsuro Higashi, former chairman of Tokyo Electron Ltd.
The Japanese startup is collaborating with IBM to transform the chip design for 2-nanometer technology into production-ready silicon. Their goal is to fabricate these advanced chips on a large scale in the latter part of this decade. The most advanced semiconductors are currently being developed using the larger 3nm node.
Leading Japanese corporations, including Toyota Motor, Sony Group, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp, have invested in Rapidus, recognizing the potential of its venture. In addition to IBM, the company is also partnering with IMEC, a microelectronics research center based in Belgium, to further enhance its chip fabrication and technology development capabilities.
IBM has expressed willingness to support Rapidus in strengthening its collaborations with other companies in the industry. According to Norishige Morimoto, an IBM representative, even major players like Samsung and TSMC would welcome the entry of a third competitor who can provide advanced lithography services to customers.
Competitors are struggling to meet the high demand and are making customers wait. If Rapidus can alleviate part of this backlog, it is unlikely to create significant issues for TSMC and Samsung.
TSMC management has also stated that they do not perceive Rapidus as a direct competitor. Instead, the Japan based manufacturer will focus on training engineering personnel for the national semiconductor industry. Rapidus’ business scale will be relatively modest compared to TSMC and is not seen as a threat by the company.
According to industry experts, the collaboration between IBM and Rapidus holds the potential to bring additional value to the semiconductor industry, offering customers increased options and alleviating supply constraints.