Semiconductor chip development R & D support period is short… Task selection criteria must be important

There is a time when I can’t live without a semiconductor. Semiconductors are now the water and power of society and industry. You can move and connect everything, but it can also stop and destroy everything. The semiconductor industry, which transformed our economy, which is an intensive labor-intensive and high value-added industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has now faced a new era of transition in the global technology hegemony and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Along with the launch of the new government, the strengthening of the domestic semiconductor industry and the expansion of the ecosystem have emerged as a more urgent task than ever. G-DINET Korea celebrates its 22nd anniversary for the 22nd anniversary of the series ‘Semiconductor is the Future’ series in three parts. Beyond the stomach of our export industry, we will carefully point out the current status of the Korean semiconductor industry, which is regarded as economic and security assets, and seek to seek what to prepare and how to design the future. [Editor]

Part 1: The world is a semiconductor war

Part 2: Korean semiconductor myth continues

Part 3: Listen to Experts

Recently, the government has been fostering K-fabless by increasing the size of the ‘fabless R & D support project’ for SMEs and startups. It aims to actively support Korea to become a comprehensive semiconductor powerhouse by developing system semiconductor competitiveness that has been inadequate compared to memory.

The semiconductor industry is positively evaluated by the government’s fabless support policy in that it has more likely that semiconductor startups can grow than before. On the other hand, there are voices that the period of receiving subsidies from the government is not enough to develop semiconductors, and that support is focused only on projects that can achieve results in the short term.

■ Korean fabless global share of 1%… Government, K-fabless is fostered

Korea is the number one in the world of memory semiconductors, but it is insufficient in the system semiconductor market with a 1% share of the world. According to market research firm IC Inssez, the US (68%) and Taiwan (21%) are led by the global fabless market in 2021, while Korea (1%) has a lower market share than China (9%).

The industry explains that the reason why domestic fabless has not been growing has been vulnerable to ▲ dependence on certain customers (large companies), the size of the scale, and the lack of manpower. In particular, it is also pointed out that it has a limited competitiveness to some items linked to domestic large companies such as display drive chip (DDI) and mobile image sensors (CIS).

The government later started to grow domestic fabless companies. Last year, the Ministry of Science and ICT announced a plan to support system semiconductor technology innovation, and began supporting R & D of 240 billion won to domestic fabless companies. In addition, for the first time last year, the company established the ‘Fabless Challenge R & D’ project to support 5.5 billion won per company for three years.

In particular, the government plans to focus on promising items such as power semiconductors, next-generation sensors, and artificial intelligence semiconductors. Among them, the next generation of intelligent semiconductor support was expanded from 83.1 billion won (82 tasks) in 2020 to KRW 12.3 billion (117 tasks) last year.

In November last year, a plan was to reduce the burden of production costs for small and medium fabless companies by establishing a joint design asset (IP) platform. ‘The policy is to purchase and provide overseas IPs and to support the development of IP at the same time.

In addition, this year, the ‘Bundle Order’ system, which is jointly ordered by several fables, has been introduced this year. The Nano Comprehensive Institute (Daejeon) and the Korea Nano Technology Institute (Suwon), which were built by the government supporting facilities and equipment, supports the production of the prototype (MPW) of small and medium-sized fabless.

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This year, the Consortium Technology Development Project, promoted by the Small and Medium Venture Business Department, has been added. This project is a joint participation of less than four small and medium fables in R & D projects such as mid-sized fabless companies. The mid-term selection of 10 tasks will provide up to 4 billion won of R & D for four years. It is expected to supplement the limitations of short-term and small individual companies support.

In addition, the Ministry of Middle and Medium launched the ‘Fabless and Foundry Win-Win Council’ at the end of January, and is discussing the expansion of the provision of the SME Fabless’s prototypes (MPW) process ▲ Fabless-Foundry-Government’s cooperation tasks. In addition, the mid-term announced that it will establish a super-gap fund next year to expand its venture investment in the fabless on the 17th.

■ To develop chips, short period of R & D support… Task selection criteria ‘technology’ should be important

In the semiconductor industry, the government is welcoming to bringing various fabless support policies. However, there are many opinions that due to the characteristics of the semiconductor industry, which takes a long time, the task support period is short and the amount is small. The government’s semiconductor R & D support varies from tasks, but on average three years.

An official from the domestic AI semiconductor startup said, The current government-supported fabless program has funded for three years in the development of semiconductors. If possible, big fabless companies in Korea would have already been released in Korea.

Another fabless company said, Semiconductor needs enormous initial funds from development to mass production, he said. In order for semiconductor startups to produce chip mass production, there must be a lot of opportunities to receive investments as well as government subsidies.

There was also an opinion that the method of selecting the fabless R & D government tasks will be improved.

An official of the fabless company said, The government is selecting the tasks that seem to be likely to perform in the short term for three to four years. I have to do it.

For example, at the time of application for the Fabless National Task, the goal was to create an OO ship faster AI chip compared to the US N-products, but the government evaluated it as ‘theoretically impossible and very challenging’. It was evaluated as not, but after a few years, he succeeded in developing chips and proved his technology. It is also necessary to do it.

■ MPW support expanded… Large companies acquired semiconductor startups and needed an ecosystem expansion

Semiconductor fabless company, which demanded anonymity, said, In Taiwan, the university laboratory and fabless startups can make prototype production (MPW) at a low price at TSMC. We are actively supporting.

Samsung Electronics is also providing MPW support to domestic startups for a long time, but I hope to expand its capacity and increase advanced process support than it is now. Increasing small and medium-sized fabless companies have become more difficult than before to secure MPW quantities. In addition, AI semiconductor is a global competition only when it is produced in advanced processes such as 14nm, 8nm, and 5nm, he said.

Currently, Samsung Electronics, DB Hitech, and Nano Technology Institute provides prototype MPW support programs for domestic small and medium fabless companies.

Choi Si-young, president of Samsung Electronics Foundry Division, said in January that Samsung Electronics will also strengthen the competitiveness of small and medium-sized fables at the time of the launch of the Fabless and Foundry Win-Win Council. In addition, the mid-term and Samsung Electronics will hold the ‘Fabless Challenge Contest’ to select and support excellent fabless start-up companies in July to create a win-win system semiconductor ecosystem between the fabless and foundry.

There was also an opinion that a large domestic corporation should be established to alleviate regulations when large domestic companies acquire semiconductor startups to grow domestic semiconductor ecosystems. Unlike Israel’s acquisition of semiconductor startups, shared growth is rarely acquired by large companies in the domestic semiconductor industry.

An official from the semiconductor industry said, In Korea, the grandchildren can not acquire 100% of the shares because of the fact that large companies are acquired by national companies. The ecosystem will increase as it expands the business within, and the internal personnel in large corporations are repeated, he said. It’s a small side, he said.

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