The Korea Herald


Korea unveils 10-year blueprint for chip supremacy

Samsung, SK join public-private consultative body to spur innovation on advanced chips

By Jo He-rim

Published : May 9, 2023 - 15:00

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Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong-ho speaks at a meeting in Seoul on April 21. (Yonhap) Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong-ho speaks at a meeting in Seoul on April 21. (Yonhap)

South Korea on Tuesday introduced its first blueprint on research and development of the chip industry, aimed at fostering next-generation memory and logic chips amid rising global competition.

Under the 10-year R&D road map, the Ministry of Science and ICT outlined its pursuit of technological advancement in three areas of next-generation memory and logic chips, and advanced packaging.

The ministry vowed to support the semiconductor industry to produce faster, more energy efficient and higher capacity chips for the industry to maintain its global dominance in fields it is already leading, and for it to gain a competitive edge in advanced logic chips.

The blueprint elaborates on the details of the chip strategy the government had announced earlier in April. At that time, the government said it would invest 563.5 billion won ($425 million) in R&D in the chip industry to support fostering talent, infrastructure and technology development.

The road map is also a follow-up measure to the agreements made in the latest summits with the US and Japan on R&D cooperation in the chip, display and battery sectors, the ministry added.

A public-private consultative group, to be led by the Science Ministry, was established the same day to connect and promote cooperation among the government, industry stakeholders and those in academia.

"With the public-private consultative group of future chip technology, we plan to establish an R&D ecosystem to promote frequent cooperation of all players, including the government, industry and research sectors," said Science Minister Lee Jong-ho at the presentation event held in Seoul.

"The government will strategically pursue R&D based on the road map, for future semiconductor technology policies and business directions," Lee added.

The ministry said related industry, government and research entities have taken part in discussions to establish the national blueprint since May last year.

In the consultative body, the minister said the government will play a role in bolstering the chip industry’s long-term preparedness throughout the whole supply chain from materials to design and manufacturing.

Under the R&D blueprint, the country aims to develop next-generation memory chips, involving next-generation chip devices, ferroelectric RAM, magnetic RAM, phase-change RAM and ReRAM, or resistive random-access memory.

Intensifying competition to miniaturize circuits for high-density and low-power chips have prompted leading chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics and TSMC to develop 3-nanometer chips.

For narrower and more efficient chips, the companies are working to overcome the limits of the current complementary metal-oxide semiconductors, but at the same time looking for ways to boost the durability and reproducibility, the ministry said.

Over the next decade, it has also set goals to develop original technologies in chip design for artificial intelligence, 6G, electricity and automotive sectors, and also original technologies for ultra chip-scaling and advanced packaging.

It is crucial the country achieves a competitive edge in producing processing-in-memory chips, which combines the computing function to memory chips, as demand is rising fast for bigger data and computing capacities, the ministry explained.

The rise of artificial intelligence, the ministry said, would lead the chip trend to evolve from graphics processing units to neural processing units, or microprocessors that specialize in accelerating machine learning for various uses such as self-driving cars and facial recognition.

It would then move to focus on neuromorphic chips to deliver capabilities in robotics, health care through technology that mimics how the human brain works, it added.

The blueprint also highlights the importance of foundries, which are critically linked to chip design and production capacity of logic chips, and seeks to support technology advancement in manufacturing.

The ministry also stressed on the post-manufacturing process of advanced packaging, calling it the key to advancing chip technology as growth from chip miniaturization starts to plateau.

At the Tuesday briefing held in Seoul, Samsung Electronics, SK hynix, Sapeon Korea, RFHIC and Wonik IPS also presented their latest technology and industry trends.

While the chip industry has reached a certain level of maturity, the ministry predicted the market size will double over the next decade. The global chip market was valued at $601.5 billion in 2022, quadruple the size in 2002, according to data from Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.