Huawei builds major tool R&D center in Shanghai to develop lithography and fab equipment, report says

Huawei
(Image credit: Huawei)

China, unable to access leading-edge wafer fab tools from American, European, and Japanese manufacturers, has to develop its own fab equipment. Huawei is building a giant research and development (R&D) center near Shanghai, where it plans to develop chipmaking tools that will have to be competitive with systems designed by ASML, Canon, and Nikon, reports Nikkei

The R&D center will focus on developing lithography machines, which are essential for making chips on leading-edge nodes. For now, Huawei's partners SMIC and Hua Hong cannot get litho tools that allow them to make logic chips on 14nm/16nm FinFET-based process technologies and more advanced processes, but they can still obtain 28nm-capable lithography systems. Therefore, Huawei-developed machines will have to be at least 28nm, or better 14nm/16nm-capable. For now, ASML controls well over 90% of the lithography tools market. 

The R&D center is strategically located in the Qingpu district of Shanghai, part of a larger campus that includes facilities for Huawei's chip design unit, HiSilicon T, as well as R&D centers for wireless technologies and smartphones. The total investment for this campus is estimated at ¥12 billion ($1.66 billion), covering an area equivalent to approximately 224 football fields. Once completed, it will have the capacity to accommodate over 35,000 employees. 

To attract top talent, Huawei is offering competitive salary packages and has already hired engineers with experience in leading chip tool builders and chipmaker. Huawei (and other China-based companies) can no longer hire U.S. citizens and holders of U.S. green cards to lead its projects. Now that ASML, Applied Materials, KLA, and Lam Research have to cut down their presence in China, Huawei and other companies in the country can hire experienced talent with Chinese citizenship. 

Huawei's R&D spending reached a record high of ¥164.7 billion ($22.756 billion) in 2023, accounting for 23.4% of its total revenue. This significant investment underscores the company's commitment to innovation and the increase can be attributed to growing investments in the development of wafer fab tools.  

Before being added to the U.S. trade blacklist, Huawei primarily focused on chip design, collaborating with major contract chipmakers, such as TSMC and GlobalFoundries. However, following restrictions on access to American technologies, the company shifted its focus to working with China-based contract chipmaker SMIC, the report claims. Huawei is now reportedly venturing into chip production itself, partnering with entities backed by local governments in multiple Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, Qingdao, and Quanzhou, which essentially means that it pours money into fabs operated by Huawei and co-owned by local and federal governments. Additionally, Huawei has invested in numerous local providers of chip materials in a bid to use local suppliers and invest in domestic alternatives.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • EyadSoftwareEngineer
    soon and very soon china will achieve the breakthrough in making micro chips, and it will be the death for other micro chips makers , as it did happen in Cars, in which China now earned the titpe of largest exporter of cars in the world
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    EyadSoftwareEngineer said:
    soon and very soon china will achieve the breakthrough in making micro chips,
    Will they do that through hard work or ip theft?
    Reply
  • DalaiLamar
    peachpuff said:
    Will they do that through hard work or ip theft?

    China is already surging ahead in patents, so no difference from the West. Some theft, maybe, like the Americans, and some innovations.
    Reply
  • nookoool
    peachpuff said:
    Will they do that through hard work or ip theft?
    Like this?
    Under the Patent Act of 1793, the United States barred foreign inventors from receiving patents at the same time as granting patents to Americans who had pirated technology from other countries. “America thus became, by national policy and legislative act, the world’s premier legal sanctuary for industrial pirates. Any American could bring a foreign innovation to the United States and commercialize the idea, all with total legal immunity.”
    Reply
  • LanLanLan
    Same approach used with Nortel Networks. Build campus, steal secrets, hire other companies‘ staff, steal more secrets.

    Chinese will be never sanctioned enough and they are crazy at play victims‘ role
    Reply
  • LanLanLan
    nookoool said:
    Like this?
    Under the Patent Act of 1793, the United States barred foreign inventors from receiving patents at the same time as granting patents to Americans who had pirated technology from other countries. “America thus became, by national policy and legislative act, the world’s premier legal sanctuary for industrial pirates. Any American could bring a foreign innovation to the United States and commercialize the idea, all with total legal immunity.”
    Please dont be stupid. We all know level of chinese theft. That law simply means you must create a US company to register IPs. You are just trolling
    Reply
  • LanLanLan
    DalaiLamar said:
    China is already surging ahead in patents, so no difference from the West. Some theft, maybe, like the Americans, and some innovations.
    I totally agree, now that they have stolen all, there is not much to complain by the West
    Reply
  • LanLanLan
    EyadSoftwareEngineer said:
    soon and very soon china will achieve the breakthrough in making micro chips, and it will be the death for other micro chips makers , as it did happen in Cars, in which China now earned the titpe of largest exporter of cars in the world
    Just for 10 years… then demographics will kick in
    Reply
  • gg83
    DalaiLamar said:
    China is already surging ahead in patents, so no difference from the West. Some theft, maybe, like the Americans, and some innovations.
    Patents have nothing to do with innovation.
    Reply
  • dEAne
    Competition encourages innovation. It pushes businesses to constantly improve and refine their products or services. Learning (or it could also be spying) from your competitors can be motivating and inspiring. It can help you develop new strategies and ideas that could lead to significant growth and advancement. If there's no competition then nothing is challenging.
    Reply