Japan Commits Massive $2.4B Investment For Next-Gen 2nm Chip Research Hub With The US

asml chip fabrication
Right now, all of the fastest microprocessors in the world are made in one place: Taiwan. That country's Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has the most advanced fabrication technology on the planet. As as result, companies like Apple, NVIDIA, AMD, and recently, even Intel are elbowing in for a slice of TSMC's output. That all could change if a joint project between Japan and the US sees fruition, though.

According to a report from Nikkei Asia, Japan is budgeting some 350 billion yen ($2.38b USD) for its contribution to a research collaboration between that country and the United States on the development of a 2nm (or 20 Angstrom) microchip fabrication process. The island nation is apparently also budgeting some 450b yen to actually build a fab with the technology on its land, as well as an additional 370b yen for "essential materials."

The report says that the joint research will be underway by the end of this year, and that the goal will be the ability to mass-produce 2nm chips by "the latter half of the decade." There are scant few details on who is actually contributing to the project, but that list will at least include the University of Tokyo, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial science and Technology, as well as the think tank Riken.

Over on the US side of things, the only confirmed contributor is IBM. For those not in the know, IBM does still sell its own processors using the POWER architecture. They're mostly used in supercomputers and other high-performance applications, and they aren't well-suited for desktop or client use. IBM has historically not used the latest process technology for its own chips, likely owing to the high costs, but the company has already been working on 2nm for some time now.

IBM 2nm Wafer
A wafer of 2nm chips fabricated by IBM.

Japan doesn't have any bleeding-edge chip foundries, but it's investing a lot of money in that direction lately. TSMC, Kioxia (who used to be a part of Toshiba), and the US-based Micron Technology have all gotten subsidies from the Japanese government to build foundries in Japan recently.

Nikkei says that this isn't just because Japan wants to make its own semiconductors like China, but also because Japan's economy is weaker than it has been since the post-war era. Its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry sees this as an opportunity to attract investment. After all, "buy low, sell high" is how you make it with investing.

All of this comes on the heels of a new law called the Economic Security Promotion Act, which seeks to reduce Japan's reliance on supply chains outside of the country. Besides semiconductors, the Act includes 1 trillion yen ($6.88b USD) to improve the supply of batteries, magnets, and rare earths, all of which are now designated as "critical goods" to Japan's economy.

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