Toshiba, Rohm to Collaborate on Power Semiconductors Needed for EVs; METI to Give ¥130 Billion Injection
21:00 JST, December 8, 2023
A Toshiba Corp. subsidiary and Kyoto-based chipmaker Rohm Co. will collaborate on power semiconductors, used in electric vehicles and other devices, by splitting production between their factories, the companies have said.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Friday that it would subsidize the project with up to ¥129.4 billion, hoping to strengthen the domestic industrial base. Japan already has a solid foothold in power chips, boasting a 20% share of the global market.
Demand for the devices is growing as the world tries to cut carbon emissions. Research firm Fuji Keizai Co. estimates the market will be worth ¥13.4 trillion in 2035, about five times larger than in 2022. However, Japanese companies have lagged behind their European and U.S. counterparts in terms of market share per company.
According to sources, Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corp. will expand its plant in Nomi, Ishikawa Prefecture, to boost production of silicon power semiconductors, which are the most common form of the devices at present. The plant is expected to start turning out the semiconductors in March 2025. Rohm plans to increase its production of next-generation devices made with silicon carbide, which allows for greater energy savings, from April 2026 with a plant under construction in Kunitomi, Miyazaki Prefecture.
The two companies want to take more market share while avoiding business overlap.
“Cooperation among Japanese manufacturers is important to improve our competitiveness,” said Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura at a press conference Friday. “[Their collaboration] will lead to the mobilization of resources, including technology and human resources, and also be the first step toward the creation of world-leading manufacturers.”
Investment in the Toshiba and Rohm project is expected to total ¥388.3 billion, one-third of which will be provided by the ministry.
Subsidies to nudge industry reorganization
Toshiba and Rohm plan to jointly manufacture power semiconductors and concentrate resource management in their respective fields of expertise. Many Japanese manufacturers are involved in making power semiconductors, which are essential for energy-saving functions in various kinds of electronic equipment among other uses, but cut-throat competition in the industry has become a significant issue. The Toshiba-Rohm plan to collaborate could be a catalyst for a reorganization within the industry.
Rohm is a semiconductor giant. It is part of a domestic consortium that acquired Toshiba and will contribute a total of ¥300 billion, including preferred stock. This latest collaboration appears to be aimed at further deepening cooperation with Toshiba.
Power semiconductors can convert alternating current to direct current and vice versa. They are also used for allowing or stopping the flow of electricity. A German company holds the largest share of the global market, followed by a U.S. company. Four Japanese firms are in the top 10 in terms of global market share, with Mitsubishi Electric Corp. being the highest at fourth. Toshiba ranks seventh and Rohm is ninth.
According to sources, a future business integration option also appears to be on the table. The government intends to provide public financial assistance to further encourage collaboration and industry reorganization, and to nurture a Japanese power semiconductor production base that ranks alongside those in the United States and Europe.
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