NSTC allocates NT$20 billion to support infrastructure for 12-inch chip equipment donated by chipmaker

Bryan Chuang, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0


The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has earmarked NT$20 billion (US$631.51 million) from the budget for the "Taiwan Chip-based Industrial Innovation Program" to bolster infrastructure for accommodating two sets of 12-inch wafer processing equipment to be donated by a Taiwanese semiconductor company, according to NSTC Minister Wu Tsung-Tsong.

Observers noted that the allocated funds could be enough to construct a new building and a large clean room, and the building will likely be located at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) to house the equipment.

Wu neither confirmed nor denied these speculations. He emphasized that it will be up to the donor to announce the timeline for the equipment donation.

Media reports revealed that the semiconductor company set to donate the equipment has obtained approval for the donation scheme from its board of directors but has yet to announce it publicly. Informed sources indicated that the company needs to create space for new equipment installation, prompting the necessity to donate the old equipment as soon as possible. It is anticipated that the announcement will be made in the near future without significant delay.

The impending equipment donation poses challenges and opportunities. The Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI) of the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) is slated to receive the 12-inch equipment. However, concerns arise regarding the utilization of such machinery for academic research. Some academic insiders argue that the current demand for chip designs in universities may not fully capitalize on the equipment's capacity, leading to maintenance and operational hurdles.

To address this, a possible solution is for the government to extend equipment access to startups. Most startups cannot afford TSMC's high chip tape-out costs, nor can they cut into UMC's manufacturing schedule. Therefore, if they can utilize TSRI's upcoming 12-inch wafer equipment, they can address the academia's underutilization dilemma and overcome financial barriers associated with their chip fabrication at the foundry house.

Since it will take several years for the NT$20 billion public construction project to go from design to bidding, NARLabs president Lin Faa-Jeng has said that TSRI's old 8-inch wafer processing equipment will be phased out first, and the upcoming donated 12-inch facility will be prioritized for being located at TSRI's existing building, with a focus on serving academia for forward-looking chip research and development.