US chipmaker Micron to boost hiring in Taiwan to fight China poaching

US chipmaker Micron to hire 800 workers in Taiwan to counter poaching from Chinese rivals

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(Image from Google Maps)

(Image from Google Maps)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- U.S.-based chipmaker Micron Technology is planning hire at least 800 new workers in Taiwan by 2019 to counter poaching efforts by Chinese rivals, reported the Nikkei Asian Review.

The memory chipmaker has lost hundreds of engineers since its acquisition of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) maker Inotera Memories (華亞科) in 2016, which was a joint venture with Taiwanese company Nanya Technology (南亞科). Chinese rival chipmakers are luring away Taiwanese engineers by offering salaries five times higher than what they make in Taiwan.

Wang Wen-yuan (王文淵), president of the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) conglomerate last week told CNA that Chinese rivals have lured away 48 high level technicians from Nanya Technology, while Inotera Memories lost more than 400 employees.

While poaching talent, in some cases, unscrupulous Chinese rivals are convincing engineers to not only jump ship, but to also steal technology before they leave. In September 2017, five former employees of Inotera Memories were charged with violations of the Trade Secrets Act, the Copyright Act and the Criminal Code for stealing classified documents from their former company and handing them over to a Chinese wafer producing company.

Micron is the third largest DRAM maker in the world and Taiwan is its largest production base. DRAM chips are used in a wide variety of electronic devices including smart phones, desktop computer, global positioning systems, tablets and pads, smart TVs, portable media players, and networking equipment, to name a few.

Speaking to a group of reporters on April 24, Wayne R. Allan, senior vice president of global manufacturing at Micron, said that the firm employed 6,800 Taiwanese workers in March, and that the company plans to expand its headcount to 7,650 by the end of 2019, reported the Nikkei Asian Review. Part of that new increase in talent will go toward boosting its capacity for in-house chip testing and packaging in Taiwan.

Despite their aggressive tactics, Allan said that it will take a long time for them to actually catch up:

"As we look at the potential threats in China, what I can say is there is a very high bar for new entrance to this business because intellectual property is very rich. That's not something you can replicate overnight."

Micron seems to have learned a lesson from other foreign IT companies that licensed their intellectual property to Chinese firms, only to have it used in competing products sold at bargain-basement prices:

"We have a lot of business in China. But when it comes to licensing chip technology, that's not something we will currently contemplate."