Japan's Rohm, Toshiba grab $900M in subsidies to boost power semi production

Silicon carbide production for EVs among key targets

Silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors are getting a lot of attention of late and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry doesn't want to be left out.

In a joint announcement on Friday, Rohm and Toshiba — two major Japanese chipmakers — revealed the government had earmarked ¥129.4 billion ($902 million) in subsidies to bolster domestic production of power semis.

The two companies plan to invest a total of ¥388.3 billion ($2.67 billion), including subsidies, into new capacity. Most of the investment, to the tune of $1.99 billion, will go toward SiC wafer production led by Rohm. Toshiba, meanwhile, plans to push $684 million into more traditional silicon power chips.

During a press conference on Friday Japan's Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura reportedly touted the collaboration as a step toward cementing Japan's position as a semiconductor leader and said the government would be planning similar investments in local production.

"It is essential that domestic power semiconductor manufacturers work with one another to improve the Japanese industry's international competitiveness," he said.

SiC chips tend to be more efficient at higher voltages compared to standard silicon. As a result, SiC components are increasingly finding their way into traction inverters and DC-to-DC inverters that are used a lot in EVs. This greater efficiency has knock-on effects to automakers which can then reduce weight, battery wear and extend EV ranges.

Because of this several chipmakers across the US, Europe, and now Japan have collectively announced billions of dollars of investments into new wafer fabs and research and development facilities to boost domestic supplies.

Aanother major producer of silicon carbide components, On Semiconductor, expects to ship more than $800 million of SiC chips, largely for the automotive market, in 2023, earning 4x last year's revenue.

Bosch, meanwhile, announced the acquisition of US chipmaker TSI Semiconductor to boost its silicon carbide supply chain in the Americas. While the terms of the deal weren't disclosed, Bosch has committed to investing about $1.5 billion into TSI's Roseville campus.

STMicroelectronics has also revealed plans to bring SiC wafer production in house, a move it claimed would drive $5 billion of annual revenues by the end of the decade.

Then, of course, there's North Carolina's Wolfspeed, which secured $1.25 billion in financing to expand its SiC and Gallium Nitride — another potent power semi technology commonly found in consumer electronics chips. ®

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