Japan's chip makers form JV for 90-nanometer technology

Eleven Japanese chip makers have formed a new company to develop core technologies for the design and manufacture of 90 nanometer (0.09 micron) semiconductor devices, the companies announced Thursday.

The new company, Advanced SoC Platform Corp. (ASPLA), will work with a governmental agency, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), on unification of technologies for 90-nanometer devices, ASPLA said in a statement.

AIST has been budgeted ¥31.5 billion (US$268 million) by the Japanese government to prepare a pilot manufacturing line for next generation semiconductor development and standardization, ASPLA said.

It will also be in partnership with Semiconductor Technology Academic Research Center (STARC), another joint venture by the same 11 companies, established in 1995 to jointly work with universities on core chip technologies. ASPLA plans to promote STARC's design rules, design library and basic intellectual property, as well as conduct trials of integrated circuits designed with these resources, the new company said.

Satoru Ito, senior corporate officer of Hitachi, has be made chairman of ASPLA and Keiichi Kawate, a former Toshiba executive, will serve as president and chief executive officer, ASPLA said.

The new company plans to establish the 90-nanometer process standard in the first half of next year and begin manufacturing prototype wafers in June 2003. ASPLA will then start considering the development of the next generation process in October 2003, the company said.

In addition, ASPLA hopes to establish an open technological platform for system-on-chips (SoC) by verifying designs developed by third parties worldwide.

ASPLA was established on July 5 with a capitalization of ¥950 million and is expected to start business on July 18.

Investments of ¥150 million each were made by Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., NEC Corp. and Toshiba Corp., while investments of ¥10 million each came from Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd., Rohm Co. Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Sony Corp., ASPLA said.

Fujitsu, Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC and Toshiba are expected to invest a total of ¥900 million more by March next year, ASPLA said.

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