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Chipmakers Collaborate on Sub-Micron R&D

Rival chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. , United Microelectronics Corp. and Infineon Technologies plan to tackle semiconductor development at the deep sub-micron level.

The move, which is hardly a surprise in the fast-consolidating semiconductor space, builds on existing two-way partnerships and provides further evidence that rivals must team up on R&D because of the monumental expenditure needed to create new chip technologies.

The three companies plan to collaborate on developing recipes for 65/45 nanometer manufacturing platform technologies. It specifically targets the high-volume production of semiconductor logic products on next-generation 300 millimeter wafers.

Taiwan's UMC, which is spending big on nanotech R&D investments, is the key partner in the three-way collaboration. The trio initially plan to kick up the research partnership at a UMC facility in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

UMC also has an existing arrangement with Germany's Infineon to develop 130/90 nanometer process technology. The latest deal brings Infineon into the process development program AMD and UMC announced earlier this year targeted for the 65 and 45 nanometer nodes.

Infineon and UMC are also sharing the expenses of building a new factory in Singapore that would use a new generation of 300-millimeter silicon wafers. Calif-based AMD already has a partnership with UMC to build a factory to make the 300-millimeter wafers. In a statement, the trio said the plant would be completed in 2005.

"(Our) joint development work with UMC and Infineon is a prime example of the type of cooperation that will come to lead the semiconductor industry in the age of 300mm manufacturing," said AMD chief executive Hector Ruiz.

While R&D hand-holding in the chipmaking space is nothing new, the heightened activity lends further credibility to the nanotechnology , which deals with the control of individual atoms and molecules to create computer chips and other devices that are thousands of times smaller than current technologies permit.

Earlier this year, Motorola, NEC, Philips Electronics, ST Microelectronics, and the Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced a five-year collaboration pact to build technologies for the 90 and 65 nanometer nodes. ST and UMC also have a separate partnership for research and development efforts.

For complete coverage of the nanotechnology sector, see internet.com's NanotechPlanet.