IBM partners with new Japanese chip maker, Rapidus, to produce cutting-edge chips
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The IBM logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
By Jane Lanhee Lee and Tim Kelly
OAKLAND, Calif./TOKYO (Reuters) – IBM On Tuesday, Corp said it was working with Rapidus, a Japanese government-backed start-up chipmaker, to help it manufacture the most advanced chips available.
The announcement comes as US-China relations remain tense, especially over chips, and Washington has recently restricted Beijing’s access to advanced semiconductor technology. Japan, which has long lost its lead in chip production, is now rushing to catch up and make sure its carmakers and information technology companies don’t lack this vital component.
Last month, Japan said it would invest 70 billion yen ($500 million) initially in Rapidus, a venture led by tech companies including sony (NYSE:) Group Corp and NEC Corp. While that’s small in the world of chipmaking, where factories can cost tens of billions of dollars to build, sources say more investments are underway.
International Business Machines (NYSE:) Corp.’s research director, Dario Gil, said the two companies will work together to produce the so-called 2-nanometer node chip IBM announced last year.
A “nanometer”, or billionth of a meter, in the chip industry now refers to a specific technology rather than measurement. In general, the smaller the number before the word “nanometer”, the more advanced the chip.
When asked if Japan could take the leap to produce such advanced technology as its most advanced factory now produces 40-nanometer chips, Gil said: “It’s not like you’re starting out. begin again”.
“Japan already has tremendous strengths in the semiconductor industry and from a materials and devices perspective are the global leaders in that field,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement. “The technical and scientific expertise in Japan and the network of suppliers and partners around it is rich and strong.”
IBM said that as part of the agreement, Rapidus scientists and engineers will work alongside IBM Japan and IBM researchers at the Albany Nanotechnology Complex in New York state.
The new factory will be in Japan, although the companies have yet to announce the exact location.