China's Top University Opens IC School to Train The Country's Own Semiconductor Talents

April 23, 2021 3:13 pm

Beijing (PingWest)—One of China's leading universities, Tsinghua University, inaugurated on Thursday that a new school is established to take on what China is falling short - chips.

The Tsinghua University School of Integrated Circuits opens as the top Chinese university celebrates its 110th anniversary. According to the university, the newly founded IC school is jointly established by the original Department of Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics and the Department of Electronic Engineering. It will also establish a cross-research center with related departments.

The school will train undergraduates, professional masters, academic doctoral students, and special doctoral students of different levels and categories.

The establishment of the IC school signals a vital measure for Tsinghua University to help aid the country's primary strategic drive for self-sufficiency in semiconductors.

China's IC industry has been growing from strength to strength in recent years. Yet, it still needs years of effort to catch up with the most advanced semiconductor technologies, according to Morris Chang, the founder of TSMC, speaking at a forum hosted by Economic Daily in Taipei on Wednesday.

"Mainland China has given out subsidies to the tune of tens of billions of US dollars over the past 20 years but it is still five years behind TSMC," Chang said. "Its logic chip design capability is still one to two years behind the US and Taiwan. The mainland is still not yet a competitor."

Its comparatively low technical level has hindered its move toward the high end of the value chain. Now China has acquired the capability to produce 28-nanometer chip wafers and is likely to mature in the next two years. Moreover, some Chinese companies have shifted their 14nm chipset orders from the TSMC to China's SMIC. By the coming year, China is expected to have gained the required expertise in manufacturing 14nm chips. Besides, SMIC is also reported to begin the trial production of 7nm chips in March.

The geopolitical tensions between the US and China are forcing the latter to develop competencies in this segment. Over the last few years, the country has enhanced its capability in chip manufacturing. 

The country announced plans last year to invest $1.4 trillion over six years to develop the semiconductor industry till 2025. The Academic Degree Committee of the State Council and the Ministry of Education upgraded "Integrated circuit science and engineering" to a first-class discipline in January this year to provide strong talent support to the country's IC industry.