TECH Materials, equipment 'bottlenecks' for Chinese chip sector: experts

TECH

Materials, equipment 'bottlenecks' for Chinese chip sector: experts

Global Times

17:32, November 16, 2020

China has achieved an upper hand in the chip design industry, but still faces being strangled by foreign countries in manufacturing of chips including materials and equipment, top Chinese experts in the chip industry said on Sunday.

Photo:VCG

According to industry insiders at the second China Internet Infrastructure Resources Conference held on Sunday, China's integrated chip industry increased 14 times in the past 15 years. At the design end, it increased 27 percent annually on average in the past 15 years, surpassing the island of Taiwan and becoming the second-largest home to designers after the US. 

China accounts for about 40 percent of the world's integrated chip design industry, while the proportion was less than 4 percent 15 years ago, according to the conference. 

Industry observers at the conference, also attended by think tanks, university and research institute scholars, and entrepreneurs, pointed out that the US crackdown on Chinese technologies has led to a restructuring of the supply chain. In the past, researchers worried that users would prefer foreign chips to domestic ones, but now companies in China are rushing to use domestic products to avoid sudden cut in supply. 

Some technology companies are also contacting chip companies and building their own supply chains, which will give Chinese chip designers a good chance for trials and testing errors.

China's lower- and medium-end semiconductor industry is developing well, but the Chinese chip industry is being strangled in the material and manufacturing sectors, Wei Shaojun, a professor at Tsinghua University, said at the conference. 

Wei cited the example of photoresist, an important material for integrated circuit manufacturing, which has thousands of different formulas, each of which takes months of experiments. 

China needs to increase independent research and production capabilities in these areas, experts said. 

The "bottleneck" will not disappear soon given the China-US confrontation, and China should also develop a lasting and stable investment mechanism for innovative resources, a strategic focus of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).

Wei told the Global Times that China should develop integrated circuits and the semiconductor industry with or without suppression from other countries. The expert noted the development should be rational and far-sighted rather than swarming into the industry to seek a quick success. 

The second China Internet Infrastructure Resources Conference was directed by the Cyberspace Administration of China and hosted by the China Internet Network Information Center and Computer Network Information Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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