Tech ministry to invest NT$4 billion in IC development, aiming AI

Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) said Tuesday that it plans to invest NT$4 billion (US$132 million) over the next four years in the local semiconductor sector in a bid to maintain Taiwan’s global competitive edge.

Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) told the press that the four-year plan code named the “moon shoot” has set its sights on artificial intelligence by widening the applications of Taiwan’s integrated circuit industry to meet demand.

According to the ministry, the four-year plan will kick off in 2018 as it starts to allocate NT$1 billion a year.

Chen said that with many international brands having entered AI development, it is expected to boost demand for highly efficient computing and energy-efficient ICs. As a result, Taiwan is in a strong position to take advantage of its strength in semiconductor technology to seize newly developing business opportunities.

International tech giants that have poured resources into the AI industry include Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Intel Corp., and Qualcomm Inc.

In particular, Chen said, Taiwan is good at IC design and that strength is expected to help the local semiconductor industry roll out specialty ICs for future AI applications.

Chen said that his ministry has designated 2017 the first year of AI development in Taiwan, with the four-year IC development plan expected to roll out critical IC devices for AI development by 2022.

Chen said the global semiconductor business is expected to launch commercial production of chips made using the advanced 3 nanometer process in 2022, an important transition point for AI development. In addition, the ministry’s four-year IC development plan will help Taiwan’s efforts to advance AI industry.

Currently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chip maker, is focusing on developing the 3nm process, with a plan to set up a new 3nm plant.

TSMC’s latest technology to enter commercial production is the 10nm processor, while the chip maker is developing 7nm, 5nm and 3nm processes in a bid to maintain its lead over competitors in the global semiconductor market.

According to the ministry, the four-year investment plan was devised after consulting with IC giants such as TSMC, United Microelectronics Corp. (聯電) and Taiwan’s largest IC designer MediaTek Inc. (聯發科).

The ministry said funding will mainly go to the academic sector, which is expected to seek a partnership with the business community over the next four years, adding that the plan looks to cultivate a pool of talent for Taiwanese firms.

The ministry added that the four-year plan is not part of the government’s “Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program,” which has its own budget for digital technology development.

The country will spend up to NT$420 billion on the forward-looking program over the next four years.

(By Liao Yu-yang and Frances Huang)

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