Singapore startup SiliconBox to open packaging fab in Northern Italy

Shared cultural values sealed the deal and we're struggling to figure out what they are

Singapore-based semiconductor packaging company Silicon Box announced on Monday it will invest $3.6 billion to build a manufacturing facility in Northern Italy.

The three-year-old startup specializes in advanced chiplet integration and already operates a Singapore fab which began shipping finished products last October.

That facility receives wafers, cuts them into individual chips, assembles them into final products, and tests them for performance and quality before shipping them off to customers like specialty chip designers, integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The Italian job is expected to run on similar lines.

The multi-year investment is the startup's first global expansion and is expected to employ 1,600 people once operating at full capacity.

The plant's location is yet to be determined. Design and planning are already underway, but European Commission approval is needed for subsidies to flow – which Italy's Industry Ministry has indicated is coming.

Industry minister Adolfo Urso reportedly projected that the venture entails around €4 billion ($4.4 billion) in operational costs spread over 15 years.

Silicon Box claimed the facility "will enable next generation applications in artificial intelligence (AI), high performance computing (HPC), large language models (LLM), electric vehicles (EV) and automotive, wearables, mobile, smart consumer, edge computing and more by providing advanced packaging and test capacity."

While it's not unheard of for Asian companies to build manufacturing capability in the West – for example, TSMC's slow going Arizona fab – it is far more common to hear of manufacturing sites springing up in Vietnam, India, or other Asian locales.

As Intel's Pat Gelsinger discussed last January while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, some Asian countries "put in place long-term industrial policy, tax investment, etcetera, to attract this industry – and 30 years later, they attracted the industry."

Silicon Box CEO Dr Byung Joon Han explained Italy as the top choice for global expansion because of shared cultural values.

He did not specify which values are shared – nor whether the shared values are those of the city-state of Singapore or the internal culture of Silicon Box. Or that Italy and Singapore are both celebrated for having noodles at the center of their national cuisines.

Han did go on to observe that Italy's infrastructure, talent base and government support were driving factors in the decision.

"The location is well suited to work with Europe's existing and planned semiconductor wafer fabrication clusters in Italy, Germany, and France," explained the CEO. "Proximity will enable close collaboration from design through to final manufacturing, and help increase resilience and cost efficiency of the European and global semiconductor supply chain, at a time when there is a global shortage for this type of technology."

Both Silicon Box and the Italian minister noted that global disruptions underlined the need for resilient semiconductor supply chains in Europe.

The EU has set a goal to reclaim 20 percent of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity by the end of the decade.

Urso called the planned production plant the "first of its kind in the EU" and boasted that the investment "fits fully into the European strategy marked by the Chips Act and the Italian strategy for microelectronics."

It seems unlikely this is where things will end. Silicon Box indicated it doesn't plan to stop at Italy and is preparing for further expansion – both in Europe and globally. ®

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