[News] Japan Makes Significant Investment in Semiconductors, Potentially Surpass South Korea Within a Decade

2023-12-28 Semiconductors editor

As competition in the semiconductor industry intensifies, countries worldwide are implementing industrial policies to attract domestic and foreign investments. Japan, in particular, has introduced substantial subsidies to entice industry players to invest and establish facilities.

According to the report from South Korean “Dong-a Ilbo,” compared to other nations, South Korea’s semiconductor industry lacks sufficient subsidies, and there are concerns that Japan may surpass South Korea within the next decade.

Given the high cost of advanced semiconductor facility equipment and relatively higher local labor and other costs in Japan compared to other Asian countries, semiconductor companies are making substantial investments, often in the trillions of yen, to set up facilities in Japan.

In an effort to attract foreign companies to establish facilities in Japan, the Japanese government not only promotes the capabilities of numerous domestic semiconductor upstream suppliers to meet supply chain demands but also provides subsidies to alleviate the burden on industry players, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of products manufactured in Japan.

Taking memory giant Micron as an example, reportedly, Micron’s DRAM plant being constructed in Hiroshima, Japan, has received a 39% subsidy from the Japanese government for the construction cost. This subsidy has enhanced its cost competitiveness by 5% to 7%.

With substantial assistance from the Japanese government, there is a potential for Micron to narrow the market share gap with Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix in the future.

In recent years, TSMC has also chosen to establish a plant in Kumamoto, Japan, under the active solicitation of the Japanese government. In June of the previous year, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry announced that TSMC, along with Sony and Denso, jointly investing in Kumamoto Fab 1, could receive a maximum subsidy of JPY 476 billion (approximately USD 3.34 billion), equivalent to half of the construction cost.

The head of the Japanese Semiconductor Strategic Promotion Council, Akira Amari, previously mentioned that the Japanese government would provide one-third of the construction cost as a subsidy for TSMC’s Kumamoto Fab 2.

However, in November of this year, the Japanese Cabinet approved a semiconductor subsidy plan of nearly JPY 2 trillion, deciding to grant a subsidy of JPY 900 billion to TSMC’s Kumamoto Fab 2, exceeding one-third of the construction cost.

As per TrendForce’s report, Japan is also actively supporting local company Rapidus with a goal of reaching the most advanced 2 nm process. They aim to create a semiconductor cluster in Hokkaido and are offering subsidies to foreign companies, including Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing (JASM) and PSMC’s Sendai plant (JSMC).

This dual-pronged approach by the Japanese government aims to attract both domestic and foreign semiconductor industry investments in Japan.

While the South Korean parliament expanded tax incentives for semiconductor facility investment in the chip law passed in March of this year, it did not provide direct cash subsidies, raising concerns among industry professionals about the potential overtaking of the South Korean semiconductor industry by Japan.

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(Photo credit: TSMC)

Please note that this article cites information from Dong-a Ilbo, Nikkei and The Japan Times