SEOUL -- U.S semiconductor supplier company onsemi broke ground for a research center in South Korea to develop and produce next-generation silicon and carbide (SiC) power semiconductors, which are emerging as a key component of electric vehicles, with an injection of 1.4 trillion won ($1.08 billion) by 2025.
onsemi's research center will be located in Bucheon, a city in Gyeonggi Province, which is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) away from Seoul. Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim dong-yeon attended a groundbreaking ceremony after signing a memorandum of understanding at the head office of onsemi Korea.
A manufacturing facility would be built immediately after research and development are completed. The U.S. company agreed to purchase more than 350 billion won in materials, parts, and equipment for power semiconductors from domestic companies.
Because of durability and stability, SiC power semiconductors are rapidly replacing silicon (Si) power semiconductors. SiC power semiconductors are used as a device that controls the direction of current and power conversion in electric vehicles, electronics, and 5G communication networks. While demand for SiC-based power semiconductors is soaring, their supply is limited due to oligopoly by a small number of companies in Germany, the United States, and Japan.
As a shortage in a disrupted global supply chain highlighted the strategic importance of automotive semiconductors, the Seoul government has pushed for research into semiconductors using new materials.
"Let's work together to make Gyeonggi Province the world's semiconductor mecca encompassing a semiconductor cluster to be built in Yongin, with onsemi at the center," Kim said in a statement. Europen countries had competed with South Korea to attract onsemi's research center in their territory, Kim's office said, adding it pledged various incentives.
It was Kim's consecutive feat in a day. Kim signed a memorandum of understanding with Applied Materials, a U.S. producer of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, in a ceremony in Seoul on July 6. AMAT agreed to build an R&D center at an undecided location in Gyeonggi Province. The size and timing of AMAT's investment will be disclosed later.
"We will actively support R&D centers that will contribute to fostering domestic semiconductor talent and strengthening the semiconductor ecosystem," Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun said, referring to AMAT's decision that reflected efforts by American companies to cooperate with South Korean companies in developing next-generation semiconductors amid a Sino-U.S. standoff.
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