Tiny pieces of silicon with intricate circuits on them are the lifeblood of today’s economy.
These clever semiconductors make our internet-connected world go round. In addition to iPhones and PlayStations, they underpin key national infrastructure and sophisticated weaponry.
But recently there haven’t been enough of them to meet demand.
The reasons for the ongoing global chip shortage, which is set to last into 2022 and possibly 2023, are complex and multifaceted. However, nations are planning to pump billions of dollars into semiconductors over the coming years as part of an effort to sure up supply chains and become more self-reliant, with money going toward new chip plants, as well as research and development.
South Korea became the latest country to announce a colossal investment in the industry last week. The nation’s government said Thursday that 510 trillion South Korean won ($452 billion) will be invested in chips by 2030, with the bulk of that coming from private companies in the country.
Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical specialist at the Center for Innovating the Future, a Toronto-based consulting firm, told CNBC by email that it’s a “a wartime-like effort by South Korea to build future security and independence.”
“By building massive chip capabilities, South Korea will have the power to decide its own trajectory, instead of being forced in a specific direction,” added Prakash. “This is also about not depending on China or Taiwan. By investing hundreds of billions of dollars, South Korea is ensuring that it is not pegged to other nations for its critical technology needs.”