We hear from President Roma about power semiconductors from Japan and China.

We hear from President Roma about power semiconductors from Japan and China.

The efficiency with which pure electric vehicles save energy is directly proportional to the “power semiconductors” that are used to regulate electric power (EVs). In the industry of semiconductors, Japanese companies are becoming less prevalent, but in the field of power semiconductors, Japanese companies hold a global share of the market that is equal to thirty percent. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which translates to “Nikkei Chinese website,” conducted an interview with Ko Matsumoto, President of ROHM, the largest semiconductor company in the world, to discuss the company’s strategies for fending off intense competition.

According to the following reporter, Japanese businesses are putting forth their best efforts in the field of power semiconductors.

Matsumoto: The technology of microfabrication of semiconductors, which can be used for computing as well as other applications, has been commercialized to some extent. On the other hand, the development of materials for power semiconductors calls for a significant amount of expertise as well as experience in fields such as chemistry and other related fields. When it comes to the creation of new materials with lower electrical resistance, Japanese companies are currently in the lead among their global competitors. Our business is involved in everything from the wafers that are used as raw materials to the power peripherals that are used in the finished products. By maintaining a consistent production rate, we are making progress toward both quality management and stable supply.

Reporter: Can you give us an update on the current state of the competition with regard to production growth and R&D?

Matsumoto: The trend toward reducing carbon emissions has been on the rise since 2021, and the trend toward fully electric vehicles has advanced by two years in that time. There has been an increase in the demand for power semiconductors that make use of the next-generation material known as “Silicon Carbide (SiC),” which significantly reduces power loss in comparison to products that make use of silicon materials. The investment competition has begun, and its primary target markets are manufacturers in the United States and Europe.

China is putting forth a national effort to advance this development, and the country is making alarming headway as a result. (China) Established factories in a variety of locations using high-efficiency large-diameter wafers. Since the beginning of our company’s partnership with Kyoto University for the study of silicon carbide materials more than 20 years ago, we have accumulated relevant technologies; however, if we are unable to maintain our position as the industry leaders, the situation will turn around on us.

Reporter: Can you explain the distinction between the victor and the loser?

Matsumoto: When a market is growing at a rapid pace, market share as a measure of popularity becomes increasingly important. Automobile manufacturers begin sorting through semiconductors many years in advance of the release of new vehicles. It is imperative that the supply system be put in place ahead of schedule, with the next five years as the target. Our company plans to open a new factory building in Fukuoka Prefecture for production as early as 2022, with the ultimate goal of achieving a 30% world share in the silicon carbide power semiconductor field by the end of the fiscal year 2025. (as of March 2026).

Reporter: How can we overcome the challenges that have been brought about by the dispute over the dominance of semiconductors in China and the United States?

Matsumoto: The pre-process of processing wafers in the semiconductor industry is inextricably linked to the processing equipment that is manufactured in the United States. There will be a negative impact if the conflict between China and the United States continues to escalate in the future and even semiconductors produced by Japanese companies using American equipment are prevented from being exported to China. Our business is broadening its operations into the European market, which has a significant demand for semiconductors to be used in various types of industrial machinery.

The reporter wants to know whether or not the Japanese semiconductor industry can make a comeback.

Matsumoto: China and Taiwan have developed policies that have resulted in an increase in the number of people working in the semiconductor industry. After the decade of the 1990s, the semiconductor industry in Japan experienced a sharp decline, and as a result, employment opportunities in the industry became less appealing to students. At the moment, there is a fierce competition for talent, and it is centered on Kyushu, where there are an increasing number of factories related to the industry. The nation of Japan needs to begin with the cultivation of its human resources and conduct a thorough review of the semiconductor industry.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun is the newspaper’s reporter (Chinese version: Nikkei Chinese website) Nitta Eisaku

Matsumoto: He started working for ROHM after graduating with a degree in technology from the Kyushu Institute of Technology in the year 1985 (Showa 60). The individual in charge of the creation of new manufacturing processes. During the flooding that took place in Thailand in 2011, the factory was responsible for maintaining production in the Philippines as a backup. 2013 marked the year of his promotion to Director. Since May of 2020, he has been serving in the role that he is currently in. This year, I will turn 61 years old.

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