Taiwan's hi-tech firms brace for science parks in central, northern Taiwan

Dec 02, 2003 Ι Industry In-Focus Ι Electronics and Computers Ι By Ken, CENS
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Taipei, Dec. 2, 2003 (CENS)--Recently, many heavyweight Taiwanese hi-tech enterprises headquartered in northern Taiwan have vowed to open vital facilities in science-based industrial parks in central and southern Taiwan as part of their expansion plan to keep up with business recovery.

United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), currently the world's second-largest supplier of built-to-order chips, said it will construct an eight-story building in the Southern Taiwan Science Park to develop leading-edge processing technologies including 65-nanometer, 90-nanometer and 12-inch wafer processes.

Winbond Electronics Corp. announced its plan to set up an NT$100 billion (US$2.9 billion at US$1:NT$34) 12-inch silicon-wafer plant next year at the Central Taiwan Science Park to crank out flash memory chips. DRAM (dynamic random access memory) maker ProMos Technologies Inc. said it will open its second 12-inch wafer plant at this park at a cost of US$3 billion next year.

UMC executives said their company will shift all of its 12-inch wafer process and 90-nanometer process programs to the projected R&D facility, which will be set up on a four-hectare site. To handle the rising R&D work, the firm will expand its R&D staff at its southern Taiwan branch to 300 next year from current 100. At this park, the foundry player is operating a 12-inch wafer factory on a 16-hectare site.

Winbond has recently submitted its investment application to the administration of the central science park. Company spokesman and vice president, W.S. Wen, said that the planned factory will begin production in 2006, making it a leading supplier of flash memory chips at that time. He noted that excessive demand for this chips has seriously strained the supply as a whole.

Wen analyzed that although world leading supplier Samsung Electronics has decided to set aside part of its 12-inch wafer capacity for the production of flash memory chips, world supplies of the chips will remain short because its new capacity will begin to run some time this month and the huge supply shortage left by Toshiba after its leaving the industry can hardly be filled in the short term.

Winbond recently retreated from its plan to build the planned facility at a mothballed military barrack site near the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, where its headquarters is located. It is reported that the company will team up with European chipmaker Infineon Technologies on the facility as the latter has done with Taiwanese chipmaker Nanya Technology, an affiliate of the Formosa Plastics Group. Wen said it is still too early to tell about partners as the firm is still planning on the facility.

Currently, the company has one six-inch silicon-wafer plant and two eight-inch plants. Its eight-inch wafer plants now turn out a total of 40,000 wafers of memory chips a month. In third quarter next year, it will begin to ship all of its 0.11-micron process chips to strategic partner Infineon. Flash memory chips and niche memory chips now jointly account for 25% of its eight-inch wafer production capacity.

ProMos will use the projected factory in central Taiwan to build more than DRAM chips, currently its major revenue earner, in line with its recent shift into foundry production. The company said it will not rule out teaming up with at least two foreign chip companies on a new joint venture to build the planned factory, with the firm to hold a 60% stake in the venture and the other two partners each to hold 19% and 15%.

ProMos is another Taiwanese chipmaker to announce plans to set up a second 12-inch wafer factory after PowerChip Semiconductor Corp. (PSC). ProMos executives said that the projected plant will be equipped with 90-nano stack process in 2005. The company's first 12-inch wafer factory, they added, will begin to use 0.12-micron process in the first quarter next year, boosting chip output on a wafer by 30% as compared with 0.14-micron it is using now on the wafer.

ProMos has applied to the park administration for the investment approval. The administration pointed out that it is planning second-stage construction of the park on a 200-hectare site as the 137-hectare first-stage site is now left with only 35 hectares available.
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