Trade war risks for wafer supply

Trade war risks for wafer supply

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

“We need a little more balance in the supply chain,” said Tom Caulfield, CEO of Global Foundries. “Wafer supply is dominated by Taiwan.” GF has 300mm fabs in the US and Germany, as well as a 200mm fab in Singapore.

That view is reflected by European foundry X-Fab, which also has a fab in the US at Lubbock, Texas.

“The evolution of the global politics and the whole trade war is of course not good for the semiconductor industry and for industry overall as it puts in barriers and that’s not good,” said Rudi de Winter CEO of German foundry X-fab (above). “At the same time it drives changes and that maybe opens up opportunities but overall is more negative than positive

“There are in certain areas definitely concentrations that could pose risks,” he said in agreement. “We source wafers all regions in the world – we have a wide diversity of technologies from more mature on 6in and 8in wafers, but we don’t have particular problems but we do see the whole evolution of the trade war as an obstacle to doing business when people should be focussing on growing business and removing barriers.”

STMicroelectronics has also been securing its supply chain for its specialist wafers, with deals to buy wafer makers Norstel for silicon carbide (SiC) and ExaGaN for gallium nitride (GaN). It works with TSMC in Taiwan for mainstream silicon process technologies.  

Like Global Foundries, de Winter is also looking at local financial support, whether that is called co-investment or subsidy, particularly with the US Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act signed in June.

Next: X-Fab CEO on subsidies

“In all the locations where we are active we are using local measures to support our activities and if you look at the CHIPS Act to stimulate US business that is well aligned with our activities in Lubbock [Texas]. The CHIPS Act is a good thing for semiconductor industry and particularly for the US semiconductor companies, so we look forward to see how that can help our growth in Lubbock.”

European locations need the same kind of support, he says.

“I hope it will be complemented as there is the same awareness in Europe that things need to happen but not in the same proportion as the US. There is support and awareness but it could be further stepped up, and the European community is not always helping, in particular the rules on subsidy are very strict and that is hindering strategic area like semiconductors that has a huge leveraging effect on the overall industry. They are essential. A lot of our industrial equipment depends on semiconductors and if these trade barriers are going to make things more difficult we need to make sure we continue to have access to state of the art technologies.”

“We need an even playing field around the world, and we should look at what the other regions of the world like China are doing. I am not in favour in general of subsidies but we need an even playing field so we need to find the right balance,” he said.  

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