NEC and Toshiba recently announced an alliance to jointly develop the 45nm process node. This forms the second spoke on a joint-research wheel also including Toshiba/Sony. By Carl Bender - November 10, 2005 Print Email Formed with the intention of possibly surpassing Intel and Samsung in the race for ever smaller fabbing processes, NEC recently signed a joint research agreement with Toshiba. Announced in the Japanese Nihon Keizai Shimbun, this agreement would focus on the 45nm node, a process barrier which the whole of the semiconductor industry feels will carry an enormous burden of cost and research to achieve. Joint research on the node will take place at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Center in Yokohama. In this manner, both companies are hoping that the pooling of resources will allow them to remain competetive - and indeed possibly even gain an advantage - against larger rivals with larger process R&D budgets, such as Intel and Samsung. Toshiba also has a joint-research agreement in place with Sony for the same node, and it is thought that progress and development made by either one of the seperate alliances will benefit the other. NEC and Toshiba are traditionally two of the most advanced companies in the world in terms of semiconductor research and development, and Sony has in recent years been investing a lot in both research and fab build-out to join the ranks of the leaders. The Cell project alone has cost Sony hundreds of millions in terms of research, and several billion more in terms of the building and outfitting of advanced fabrication facilities. In addition, Sony has recently pledged to spend a further $2 billion in R&D and fab modernization efforts. Smaller process nodes allow manufacturers to yield more chips per silicon wafer, both decreasing their individual cost by a significant margin and traditionally allowing for faster operational speeds and/or improved power and thermal characteristics. When Sony's Nagasaki 2 commences commercial production on the 65nm node (estimated for next year), it will be one of the most advanced fab facilities in the world.