This Chinese city wants to be the Silicon Valley of chiplets

This is what I wrote in a new story today. Chipsets – the new approach to chipmaking that breaks chips into independent modules to reduce design costs and improve computing performance – may help China develop more powerful chips despite US government sanctions that prevent Chinese companies to import certain key technologies.

Outside of China, chipsets are one of the alternative paths the semiconductor industry could take to improve chip performance in a cost-effective manner. Instead of constantly trying to cram more transistors into a single chip, the chiplet approach proposes that the functions of a chip could be separated into several smaller devices, and each component could be easier to manufacture than a single chip. powerful single-piece chip. Companies like Apple and Intel have already made commercial products this way.

But in China, technology takes on a different importance. U.S. sanctions mean Chinese companies can't buy the most advanced chips or the equipment needed to make them. They must therefore find a way to optimize the technologies available to them. And chiplets help here: If companies can make each chiplet at the most advanced level they are capable of and assemble those chiplets into a system, it can serve as a substitute for more powerful cutting-edge chips.

The technology needed to make chiplets is not that new. Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that has a chip design subsidiary called HiSilicon, experimented with its first chip design product in 2014. But the technology became more important to the company after being subject to strict sanctions from the United States in 2019 and could not 'I no longer work with foreign factories. In 2022, Guo Ping, then chairman of Huawei, said the company hoped to connect and stack less advanced chip modules to maintain product competitiveness in the market.

Currently, a lot of money is being invested in the chiplet sector. The Chinese government and investors have recognized the importance of chiplets and are investing in university projects and startups.

In particular, there's one Chinese city that's focused on chiplets, and you've probably never heard its name: Wuxi (pronounced woo-she).

Halfway between Shanghai and Nanjing, Wuxi is a mid-sized city with a strong manufacturing industry. And it has a long history in the semiconductor sector: the Chinese government built a state-owned wafer factory there in the 1960s. And when the government decided to invest in the semiconductor industry in 1989, 75% of the state budget was spent on the Wuxi factory.

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