The Globalization of Semiconductors: Challenges of Onshoring Production

August 15, 2023 / Ben Bajarin

This brief highlights the main points discussed by Ben Bajarin and Jay Goldberg on Episode 29 of The Circuit.

Semiconductors have emerged as an area of intense economic and political focus in recent years. With countries around the world seeking to reshore production capacity, the industry faces major challenges in localization. This podcast summarizes expert perspectives on the complexities of onshoring semiconductor fabrication and design.

A key tension highlighted is between countries wanting greater self-sufficiency in chip production and the realities of talent and supply chain distribution. The semiconductor industry grew up highly globalized, with centers of expertise concentrated in certain countries like Taiwan and China. Shifting production too aggressively runs up against shortages of specialized skills and higher costs.

At the same time, businesses and governments recognize risks in being overly dependent on foreign chip production. This is spurring investment to develop more local semiconductor talent through university programs and immigration policies. Companies also need to make semiconductor careers more attractive to compete with software and other tech sectors for engineers.

While politicians are increasingly engaged on semiconductor policy, industry experts worry about a lack of nuanced understanding. More education on the trade-offs and global interdependencies inherent in onshoring is needed. The semiconductor industry developed globally and still requires global cooperation, even as production may localize more.

This podcast summarizes perspectives from industry analysts on the complex challenges of localizing semiconductor fabrication and design capacity. Key tensions exist between national self-sufficiency goals and practical realities around cost, talent, and global supply chains. Further research on mitigating localization risks while supporting continued semiconductor innovation is warranted.

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