Chinese telecoms equipment vendor Huawei, US chipmaker Qualcomm and Belgium’s microelectronics R&D centre imec have teamed up with China’s largest semiconductor foundry to establish a joint-venture company.
The new venture – SMIC Advanced Technology Research & Development (Shanghai) Corp – aims to help China’s microchip leader Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) to develop the next-generation of advanced integrated circuits.
The venture company will be majority owned by SMIC, while Huawei, imec and Qualcomm will be minority shareholders. Tzu-Yin Chiu, CEO and executive director of SMIC, will be the legal representative, and SMIC VP Yu Shaofeng will be the general manager.
The project is a major breakthrough in the cooperation model for IC manufacturers and research institutions, and will facilitate closer cooperation between upstream and downstream companies, the partners said in a joint statement.
In the first phase the venture will develop 14-nanometer CMOS technology for mass production based on imec’s knowhow in advanced semiconductor processing technology. The new R&D project will be done at SMIC’s production line.
SMIC will be able to license the required intellectual property rights on the mass-production technologies, which will enable it to apply the technologies to its current and future range of products.
The long-term objective is to improve the overall level of China’s IC technologies and facilitate the mass production of 16/14nm ICs in China by 2020.
Luc Van den hove, CEO and president of imec, noted that the expertise of the four partners is focused on creating an excellent platform to foster nanoelectronics R&D in China. “The joint development of a 14nm process facility will be a stepping stone to achieve this goal.”
Qualcomm president Derek Aberle said the collaboration will help bring even more advanced processing technology and wafer manufacturing capacity to China, thereby helping China to build capability in FinFET technology.
Qualcomm has supported SMIC in the past to develop chips, but this venture covers more advanced technology. Analysts say the partnership is about allowing more companies to manufacture the chips Qualcomm designs and helping to improve its relationship with the government, after its $975 million fine in February for anti-competitive practices, the New York Times reported.