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Is Localized Chip Production Doomed to Fail?

Governments are pushing local production hubs on receptive chipmakers but the business dynamics may not support such a system.
semiconductor wafers
Semiconductor wafers

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By Bolaji Ojo

What’s at stake?

Powerful governments are pouring vast amounts of money into semiconductors to create or strengthen national or regional manufacturing and innovation hubs, departing from the globalized system that midwifed the industry. The system being built lacks long-term viability, but chipmakers are going along, drawn by government largesse and coercion. Can this new structure survive harsh business realities such as the need for global sales?

As much as $1.6 trillion may be spent on new semiconductor fabs, R&D, and STEM education programs globally by governments and chipmakers between 2020 and 2040 in a defensive, frantic and possibly doomed effort by leading economies to localize IC innovations and manufacturing in their territories, according to figures compiled by the Ojo-Yoshida Report.

Driven by parochial defense, military, supply security and other economic interests China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the United States are prodding the semiconductor industry into a new wave of massive, local fab construction projects with promises and plans that appear detached from the market’s fundamentals and historical operational system, according to observers.

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