The company, SiEn (QingDao) Integrated Circuits Co. Ltd. (QingDao, Shandong, China), was formed in 2018 and announced at the end of that year that it had signed a technology licensing agreement with European semiconductor manufacturers, but did not disclose names.

The startup foundry claims to have 15 billion RMB (about US$2.1 billion) in total investment. The first stage investment is around 7.8 billion RMB (about US$1.1 billion). The project’s target is to build 200mm and 300mm wafer fabs and a photomask shop.

In a statement issued by Weebit Nano Ltd. (Hod Hashaeon, Israel) on Monday Feb 24, 2020 to announce collaboration between it and SiEn on non-volatile memory, SiEn’s Chang is quoted saying: “Our production line will be based on STMicroelectronic technology, similar to that used by Leti, making the technology transfer simpler.” Weebit has close collaboration with Leti on the development of its silicon-oxide based ReRAM (see Second Chinese chipmaker signs up for Weebit’s ReRAM).

The SiEn website reveals some more about the company and its philosophy. It reckons that over the next two or three years the company will be making almost every type of electronic circuit on a variety of manufacturing process nodes from 180-micron down to 28nm CMOS.

These circuits could include: logic ICs, DSP, FPGAs, SoCs, MCUs, embedded MCUs, PMICs, driver ICs, specialty memory, power MOSFETs and IGBTs, analog ICs, MEMS and CMOS image sensors.

ST was approached for a comment on what process modules, foundation IP or higher order IP it was providing to SiEn.

SiEn also claims to be China s first semiconductor company based on a Commune IDM (CIDM) model and had a plan to begin manufacturing by the end of 2019.

Next: The Communards

Under the CIDM (Commune Integrated Device Manufacturer) model fabless chip companies and end application companies, jointly in joint IDM company and gain exclusive production capacity and technical support for chip manufacturing, while achieving economies of scale and sharing risk.

TSMC made a similar move back in 1996 with the establishment of WaferTech (Camas, Washington) as a US-based joint venture with TSMC, Altera, Analog Devices and ISSI as partners. The model made some sense at a time of supply constraint but did not last long and WaferTech is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of TSMC and TSMC’s only US based wafer fab.

SiEn also appears to have a similar business model to CanSemi. The existence of that company was reported in July 2018 with Chang at the head and plans to build a 300mm wafer fab in Guangzhou (see IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy). A website exists for CanSemi but it’s future is less clear as Chang was reported in January 2019 to have left CanSemi to start a new company, presumably SiEn.

Chang serves SiEn as chairman and he was the founder and first CEO of Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). Chang worked for 20 years at Texas Instruments Inc. Before founding SMIC in 2000 he was employed briefly by TSMC after its acquisition of Worldwide Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. where he had been CEO from 1998 to 1999. With this long experience Chang has created and managed more than 10 wafer fabs in the US, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Taiwan, and China.

Chang also has been a somewhat controversial figure. He reportedly renounced his Taiwanese citizenship after he was fined NT$5 million (about US$160,000) by the Taiwanese government for allegedly making illegal investments in China as part of the creation of SMIC.

Chang was CEO at SMIC during a long-running feud with TSMC over the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets. Eventually SMIC agreed to pay $200 million plus an undisclosed amount of SMIC stock to settle the case. Chang’s departure as CEO was also apparently part of the price, as Chang resigned as CEO in November 2009 on the same day that the settlement with TSMC was reported.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Second Chinese chipmaker signs up for Weebit’s ReRAM

Chinese foundry is shipping 14nm FinFET circuits

IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy

China’s XTX adopts Weebit’s ReRAM

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