Micron Technology and its US$150 billion bet on the chip supply chain

The memory chip maker is in discussions with multiple governments in Japan, Taiwan, the US, Europe, et al. on the expansion of its hardware manufacturing footprint.
25 October 2021

Micron to spend US$100b in a New York factory, the latest semiconductor player nearshoring in the US. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)Source: Getty Images

  • The global expansion of Micron Technology is a part of its US$150 billion, 10-year investment plan
  • The announcement is timely as the US, Europe, Japan and China are boosting their domestic chip supply chains to fight the unprecedented global chip shortage

Micron Technology, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers and the only US-based hardware memory manufacturer, recently just announced its biggest-ever expansion plan that will run through 2030. The company is currently in talks with governments in Japan, Taiwan, Europe and even the US on its footprint expansion.

While Micron does not yet have any concrete investment plans for specific countries, its manufacturing expansion plans are crystallizing at a time when major economies are reviewing their semiconductor policies in order to be more self-sufficient, amidst the biggest semiconductor supply crisis in recent memory. In an interview with Nikkei Asia, Micron’s global operations executive vice president Manish Bhatia said his intentions are to highlight “the importance of memory chips as a growing part of the semiconductor ecosystem.” 

He said currently, “most policy discussions are focused on processors, microcontrollers, image sensors and other types of logic chips, as opposed to memory chips.” He also stressed that Micron’s global expansion push is aimed at keeping pace with growing demand, and will not contribute to an oversupply in the memory chip market.

Where is Micron Technology now and what’s next?

The recently announced US$150 billion plan is not only regarding leading-edge memory manufacturing, but also research and development (R&D), including potential US fab expansion, the company statement reads. Micron’s investment will also address increasing demand for memory that is essential to all computing.

Micron President and Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Mehrotra in the statement also shared his anticipation on “working with governments around the world, including in the US where CHIPS funding and the FABS Act would open the door to new industry investments, as we consider sites to support future expansion.” 

Separately, Bhatia told Nikkei Asia, “On the future generations [of chip technology] we are in discussions with multiple governments in Japan, Taiwan, the US and others about what we will do next.” The company is also considering the possibilities of bringing the industry’s most cutting-edge technology — extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment — to various facilities including in Japan, where it produces dynamic random access memory.

EUV technology, a key tool for pushing chip development forward, is only being produced by one company in the world so far: ASML of the Netherlands. However, Micron has announced its intentions to introduce EUV production technology to Taiwan — its biggest DRAM production hub — by 2024.

For context, Micron is currently the world’s third-largest DRAM chipmaker after Samsung and SK Hynix. It is also the world’s fifth-largest flash memory chipmaker after Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia, and Western Digital. The company also has a global manufacturing and R&D network that spans 13 countries, amassing over 47,000 patents in its more than 40-year history. 

The majority of that investment is in the US where Micron operates one of the world’s most advanced R&D centers at its Boise, ID headquarters, and conducts leading-edge research, design and development work. Singapore on the other hand is Micron’s most significant site for NAND flash memory. It also operates chip packing facilities in China and Malaysia. Micron however, does not have a manufacturing presence in Europe, hence why the company is in conversation with the government there too.

It is apparent how governments across the world are now ramping up solutions by investing in indigenous semiconductor manufacturing and funding research incentives. When it comes to the US particularly, the Biden administration has brought in the Innovation and Competition Act and intends to spend US$52 billion on the local semiconductors sector. 

Biden has also unveiled an infrastructure plan worth US$50 billion for the American semiconductor industry as a measure to subsidize domestic manufacturing and chip research. The entire US$50 billion is expected to go towards production incentives and research and design, including the creation of a National Semiconductor Technology Center.

To top it off, American companies such as Intel and GlobalFoundries, which once had the majority market share in manufacturing, are taking steps towards restoring chip production in the US.