Japan's Rapidus Corp., a government-backed startup, is endeavoring to transform the remote island of Hokkaido into a major hub for semiconductor innovation. With the support of key players like Sony Group Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., Rapidus aims to establish a chipmaking cluster from Tomakomai to Ishikari, emulating the success of Silicon Valley. Atsuyoshi Koike, the CEO of Rapidus, envisions a "Hokkaido Valley" that can rival the scale of Silicon Valley and set trends in the global chip industry.

Rapidus intends to manufacture cutting-edge 2-nanometer logic chips by 2027, which would represent a significant leap for Japan's chipmaking capabilities. Koike is urging chip manufacturers throughout the supply chain to invest in Hokkaido, where Rapidus is building a factory for pilot line operations in 2025. To achieve their goals, Koike emphasizes the importance of collaboration and working collectively towards a common objective.

Instead of directly competing with large-scale chip giants, Rapidus plans to focus on pioneering specialized chips, such as low-power-consumption AI chips. Hokkaido, known for its abundant clean water and renewable energy resources, provides an ideal setting for Rapidus' chip renaissance.

The success of this venture is crucial for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's objective to revitalize Japan's position as a chip superpower and stimulate the stagnant economy. In today's era of artificial intelligence and escalating tensions between the US and China, policymakers view domestic production of advanced chips as essential for reducing reliance on industry leaders like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co.

To support this ambitious project, Japan has allotted $2.4 billion with potential annual budgets of similar amounts in the future. Prime Minister Kishida has pledged unwavering support for Rapidus.

Despite the challenges ahead, such as a shortage of engineers worldwide, Koike remains confident. Besides Lam Research Corp. and IMEC, other key players in the semiconductor industry, numerous Japanese chip material suppliers and equipment makers are considering setting up production sites near Rapidus' upcoming plant. The success of TSMC's operations in Kumamoto Prefecture has spurred hope for Rapidus' impact on Hokkaido.

Hokkaido, renowned for its ski resorts and agricultural produce, has been actively attracting manufacturers for years, leveraging its superior seismic stability, access to water, and renewable energy sources. Although establishing Hokkaido's own version of Silicon Valley will take time, Koike believes it is achievable by 2030.