IBM, the American corporation, has pledged its support to Rapidus Corp., a chipmaking startup in Japan, recognizing its importance in ensuring a long-term global chip supply. As part of the newly formed Japanese consortium Rapidus, IBM will act as the technology provider, enabling the production of 2-nanometer 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, providing services for manufacturing 2-nanometer products.
Rapidus, initially established as a quasi-public initiative last year, aims to enhance Japan’s domestic chip manufacturing capabilities in the face of increasing global tensions and protectionist measures. With government 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 chip designs for 2-nanometer technology into production-ready silicon. Their objective is to fabricate these advanced chips on a large scale in the latter part of this decade. Currently, the most advanced semiconductors are being developed using the larger 3-nanometer 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 partnering with IMEC, a microelectronics research center based in Belgium, to further enhance its chip fabrication and technology development capabilities.
IBM has expressed its 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 capable of providing advanced lithography services to customers. Competitors are currently struggling to meet the high demand and causing delays for customers. If Rapidus can alleviate part of this backlog, it is unlikely to pose significant issues for TSMC and Samsung.
TSMC management has also stated that they do not view 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.
Industry experts believe that the collaboration between IBM and Rapidus holds the potential to bring additional value to the semiconductor industry, offering customers more options and alleviating supply constraints.