The U. S. CHIPS and Science Act, which President Joe Biden is expected to sign, allocates $280 billion for a packed list of projects and priorities, including $52 billion in subsidies for domestic production of semiconductors. It’s intended to “seize the future of decades to come,” the president said, and “bring the semiconductor supply chain from China to Michigan,” according to that state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer. But will it resolve the chip shortages now plaguing the auto industry and others, and will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still need to visit Taiwan’s big chipmaker in the future to ask for help? As you can imagine, the answer is complicated, so let me break it down into some digestible chunksThe U. S. share of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity has fallen from 37% in 1990 to 12% today. Plus, federal investments in chip R&D have been flat as a percentage share of the GDP, while other countries have invested heavily because they saw the strategic nature of the industry. I argue that Americans lost interest in manufacturing chips (with the notable exception of Intel INTC , Micron, Texas Instruments TXN and a few others) because it was much more profitable to design them and let someone else do the really hard work of making them. Many people didn’t think the manufacturing side could ever be that lucrative, and for a long time, it wasn’t. But TSMC was able to aggregate volumes from diverse customers from all over the world, and it was aggressive about investing in new advanced technologies. Companies like Apple AAPL , Qualcomm QCOM and Taiwan-based MediaTek sent TSMC a lot of volume because they needed the densest chips, and the next thing you know, TSMC is the world leader. Actually, it took the company 35 years of steady investment. For a while its investments were a few billion dollars a year; lately, it has been $30 – 40+ billion a year, $44 billion in 2022. That makes $52 billion seem like not a lot of money, more like a down payment. Meanwhile, Intel has suffered some setbacks. It used to be two generations ahead of TSMC, now it is behind and trying to catch up. Historically Intel has only run “fabs” – shorthand for the factories where chips are made, for its own consumption, but it went on to establish Intel Foundry Services to start producing chips for other companies. Intel Foundry Services recently won MediaTek as a customer, and though that has not been reported very widely, in my view, it’s is a big deal. MediaTek is a great company, and its just blocks down the street from TSMC’s headquarters in Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan. When we talk about the chip supply chain, different countries across the region lead in different products. Korean firms Samsung and SK Hynix are the leaders in the manufacture of memory chips, although U. S. firm Micron is one of the big three, and Kioxia of Japan is a leader in flash memory chips.
All data is taken from the source:
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