Japan Aims to Develop Post-5G Semiconductors

Japan is set to invest almost half a billion dollars to ramp up domestic semiconductor industry to keep its position as a major global player in technology. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced that the new company, called Rapidus, will focus on the development of next generation “post-5G” semiconductors. Those advanced chips will be used for smart gadgets and smart cities with high-speed sensors and transmission.

The ministry also said that the 70-billion-yen ($490-million) effort will involve working closely with the United States to bring together “the best and the brightest” from both nations.

Japan has long been one of the powerhouses of global technology, including in chipmaking. But the ministry accepted in its statement that Japan had fallen ten years behind the global competition, including the U.S., Taiwan, South Korea and some European nations.

Now is “Japan’s last chance” to remain a player in the sector, it said.

Japan’s dependence on imports for semiconductors have come to surface after the recent Covid lockdowns in China. Political tension between Washington and Beijing, which could jeopardize supplies from China, has also been a cause for concern.

The ministry said mass production of the chips is expected to begin in late 2020s.

Those taking part in Rapidus are automaker Toyota, electronics makers Sony and NEC, along with SoftBank, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Denso and Kioxia.

Each company is investing 1 billion yen ($7 million) in addition to the Japanese government subsidies. An eighth company, MUFG Bank, is investing 300 million yen ($2 million) in the new company.

Next-generation chips are expected to be crucial for artificial intelligence and automated driving systems. Investing in such technology will lead to jobs and growth, the Japanese government said.

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