Taiwan Researcher ITRI Seeks Talks With Taiwan Memory

A Taiwanese research group developing new memory chip technologies hopes to open talks with the government's new chip maker, Taiwan Memory Co. (TMC) about ways to work together.

Researchers at Taiwan's publicly funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which has been developing a number of new memory chip technologies, including RRAM (Resistive RAM), MRAM (magnetoresistive RAM) and PRAM (phase-change RAM), say they have not been approached by the government or TMC to work together on new chip technologies, despite a drumbeat of proclamations by officials and TMC executives that new technologies are the main focus of the company.

"When this company is formed, when it is real, we would like to talk to them," said Tsai Ming-jinn, research director in the Nanoelectronic Technology Division at ITRI.

Taiwanese government officials from the premier to the economics minister to the head of TMC, John Hsuan have said the goal of the new company is not to consolidate Taiwan's heavily indebted chip makers, but to develop new memory chips and chip technologies.

The company is still being organized.

So far the only people really working at TMC, aside from government officials tied to its formation, appear to be Hsuan and his secretary.

The government plans to fund TMC with around NT$30 billion (US$888.1 million) to rebuild its DRAM industry. DRAM makers on the island, with a few exceptions, have for years worked as contract chip factories, licensing memory chip technology from German, Japanese and U.S. companies, and producing chips as inexpensively as possible.

But the global recession has hit them at a bad time. A chip glut caused by building too many new factories and a resulting crash in chip prices nearly two years ago has been further exacerbated by a pull back in new lending and slowing demand in computers, the main market for DRAM.

Some Taiwanese memory chip makers are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to big loans taken out to build expensive new DRAM factories. The Taiwan government estimates total debt held by its DRAM makers at around NT$430 billion [B].

The original goal for TMC was to consolidate ailing DRAM makers into one new company, and clear debt that could cause problems in Taiwan's banking sector if it isn't repaid.

But officials and executives stopped promoting the idea of consolidation a month ago and have been talking up the plan to make TMC into a technology-focused company.

So far, TMC has made an agreement in principal to work with Japan's Elpida Memory on new technology.

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