(Bloomberg) -- Japanese government-backed startup Rapidus Corp. said it has hired more than 200 people in a bid to create a cutting-edge chip foundry by 2027 and challenge leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
Rapidus, a company founded just a year ago, is spending billions of dollars in subsidies in a long-shot bid to build a globally competitive semiconductor manufacturer in Chitose in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. It’s an effort that politicians say is necessary to solidify Japan’s global technological relevance as its economy ages.
“This is a once-in-a-thousand-year chance,” said Rapidus President Atsuyoshi Koike at a news conference following a groundbreaking ceremony for Rapidus’ upcoming plant on Friday. “This opportunity will never come again.”
Rapidus said it plans to install chip gear in December 2024 and begin test production with the goal to mass produce 2-nanometer chips in four years. That target is “daunting but feasible,” with support from overseas partners and domestic equipment makers, Rapidus Chairman Tetsuro Higashi said.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has pledged billions of dollars in subsidies to bolster domestic production of chips to help the country capitalize on growing US-China tech rivalry and regain leadership in semiconductors.
The Japanese government has allocated ¥330 billion ($2.3 billion) to Rapidus. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who attended the event, said the country’s prepared to continue its support for the startup.
“The technology here is key to Japan’s international competitiveness,” Nishimura said, adding that he hoped Japan’s linchpin status in chip-making equipment and materials will help make Rapidus a global leader. “The government pledges to give Rapidus its utmost support.”
About 130 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including executives from chip gear makers such as the Netherlands’ ASML Holding NV and Fremont, California-based Lam Research Corp.
(Updates with comments from Japan’s economy minister in 7th paragraph)
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