United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電), the nation’s second-largest contract chipmaker, said it has invested US$110 million to set up a research and development (R&D) center at its Singapore plant.
The company said the new R&D center would focus on developing advanced specialty process technologies to make chips for tablets and smartphones.
The center would also facilitate UMC’s collaboration with local research institutes such as Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics, the company said in a statement.
This year, UMC plans to add more than 80 engineers to its workforce of 1,600 at the 12-inch semiconductor fabrication plant in Singapore, known as Fab 12i.
UMC hopes the establishment of the center will help it “ensure the timely delivery of these technologies and enable UMC to tap hot new market opportunities,” chief operating officer Chen Wen-yang (陳文洋) said in the statement.
The Singaporean plant can produce 45,000 12-inch wafers per month, accounting for 45 percent of UMC’s overall 12-inch wafer output. UMC has invested a total of US$3.6 billion in the factory.
The company, which ranks as the world’s third-largest contract chipmaker after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and US-based GlobalFoundries Inc, plans to spend US$1.5 billion on new facilities and equipment this year.
In related news, the book-to-bill ratio for the North American semiconductor equipment industry stood above one for the fourth consecutive month last month, industry association SEMI’s latest survey showed yesterday.
“Both bookings and billings trends have been improving over the last four months, with the book-to-bill ratio remaining above parity over the same period,” SEMI president and chief executive officer Denny McGuirk said in a press release.
He said the “current order and spending activity are aligned with 2013 capital plans.”
The three-month average of worldwide bookings grew 6.4 percent to US$1.17 billion last month from March’s US$1.1 billion, but fell 26.8 percent from a year ago.
The three-month average of worldwide billings increased 9.3 percent to US$1.08 billion last month from US$991 million in March, but declined 25.7 percent from a year ago.