LEUVEN, Belgium -- IMEC here today announced that it has taken steps to pave the way for its previously-announced technology alliance with silicon foundry startup Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) of China.
In April, IMEC, Belgium's independent microelectronics R&D center, announced an advanced chip-making technology alliance with SMIC of Shanghai.
The contract discussions between both organizations began mid-April, with the signing of a letter of intent. In order to prepare the next step, IMEC initiated the procedure of applying for an export license with the Belgian authorities in May.
The announcement is apparently aimed to lessen fears that IMEC will transfer sensitive chip-manufacturing technology to China without the proper export licenses, according to analysts.
The most advanced technologies that have been approved by the U.S. government and other entities in China are chip-making tools and other technologies for use in making 0.25-micron IC designs and above. But SMIC and other Chinese chip makers are pushing to develop 0.18-micron design by year's end--if not sooner.
"Contrary to recent allegations in the international press, IMEC has always respected international regulations, and will continue to do so," said Gilbert Declerck, president and CEO of IMEC.
"SMIC has also given IMEC assurance of its respect for international regulations and continued obligations," he said. "For these reasons, certain cooperation with SMIC on advanced semiconductor process technology subject to governmental approval will be conditional on the Belgian authorities' grant of an export license," Declerck.
"We are curious to see how the global issue of export
restrictions to China will evolve, in view of the growing interest of equipment and materials suppliers worldwide to sell into the expanding Chinese semiconductor market," he said.