The bill, called the U.S. CHIPS Act, contains provisions that commit the government to provide funding for chip companies that aim to open production facilities or open new research and development centers for chip manufacturing technologies in the United States, particularly for nodes with feature sizes smaller than 3 nanometers.
The spokeswoman’s comments came during a Twitter conversation held by Bloomberg Technology, where she compared the size of the bill to TSMC’s capital expenditures, arguing that it would do little to establish a large-scale facility.
The interview took place earlier this week when a representative from Bloomberg Technology spoke with Ms. Elizabeth Sun, who worked at TSMC for 16 years from 2003 to 2019, alongside the company’s founder, Dr. Morris Chang.
At the beginning of the conversation, Ms. Sun clarified that since she no longer works at TSMC, her opinions do not represent the company, but are her own. She also praised her former employer and said that when she joined TSMC in 2003, the industry had nothing but praise for the company.
Halfway through the meeting, she was asked which regions in the U.S., EU, Japan and China were most likely to develop a strong semiconductor industry. In response, Ms. Sun outlined.
"Well, it's a very complex issue, and as we've said, the semiconductor industry has always been a global industry with a well-established global supply chain. Say suddenly in the last few years, all these regions and countries are talking about competing and building its own complete supply chain domestically. Okay. I don't really know if it's really worth it. So, is it really needed? Is that really possible? And even if it were possible, how long would it take? So I think we should be spending resources to help smooth out the cracks in the supply chain. I think the industry should be spending resources wisely on research and development of new materials, design architectures and new semiconductor applications, rather than, you know, throwing out billions and billions of dollars to build all these separate and decentralized manufacturing capabilities all over the place."
In June, TSMC shared the progress of its new chip manufacturing plant in Arizona, USA.
Later, she noted that while it is understandable that the U.S. government would like to further promote its local chip manufacturing.
"I don't blame the U.S. government for trying to revitalize its semiconductor industry. I think it's an important industry, and the U.S. remains a leader in it to this day. But the amount of money spent to build capacity really doesn't make that much sense. Well, $52 billion really isn't a lot of money, you only have to look at the CapEx (capital expenditure) that TSMC spent in one year. So, what's the point of $52 billion? Second, you know why not spend the money on R&D? Spending resources on R&D, on materials, on architecture, on innovative applications, that would pay bigger dividends. But you say, oh, but because of geopolitical conflicts, it only takes one missing element for this whole supply chain to get stuck, so it really doesn't matter if you're just missing one element or if you're missing a dozen or a hundred elements. All of you are going to be stuck. So how can you be sure that at any given point in time, everything you need is in the country? It's unrealistic."
So, instead, you should develop models of cooperation. Politicians should try to avoid having too much conflict in the world.
When asked if global peace is necessary for a healthy chip industry, Ms. Sun agreed and replied.
"This has been proven over the last few decades as long as the semiconductor industry has existed. That's always been the case. And now suddenly some self-righteous company with a separate agenda is teaming up with some other self-righteous politician to, you know, escalate the conflict? That's not a smart move!"
She concluded the conversation by saying that the chip manufacturing industry is a difficult one to maintain consistent profitability, a fact that the historic demand following the coronavirus pandemic has masked on the company’s balance sheet. She added that it is almost impossible for newcomers to catch up with the industry’s established players because the industry is so technology and capital intensive.