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Transphorm, Fujitsu join forces on GaN

By   /   Monday, December 2nd, 2013  /   Comments Off

Transphorm, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor said they had reached an agreement to merge their gallium-nitride, or GaN, power supply lines of business. The deal is expected to result in Fujitsu and its semiconductor subsidiary both taking minority stakes in Transphorm in exchange for creating a new entity in Japan that will be capable of high-volume production. The companies said the move will “dramatically improve the market competitiveness of Transphorm’s GaN power device business.”

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Transphorm, the Goleta-based energy efficiency chipmaker spun out of UC Santa Barbara that has raised more than $100 million in venture capital, is partnering with Tokyo electronics giant Fujitsu Ltd. to create a new company in Japan.

Transphorm, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor said they had reached an agreement to merge their gallium-nitride, or GaN, power supply lines of business. The deal is expected to result in Fujitsu and its semiconductor subsidiary both taking minority stakes in Transphorm in exchange for creating a new entity in Japan that will be capable of high-volume production. The companies said the move will “dramatically improve the market competitiveness of Transphorm’s GaN power device business.”

Founded by UCSB professor Umesh Mishra and longtime business partner Primit Parikh, Transphorm has raised more than $103 million from funds connected to Google, George Soros and major Japanese firms, among others. The company has more than 100 employees in Goleta.

By coating semiconductor wafers with just enough pricey GaN to get the job done, Transphorm’s products can reduce the wasted heat and energy in electronic systems from 40 percent to 90 percent and result in systems that are lighter and smaller than conventional silicon and cost less than pure GaN. Though GaN energy efficiency technology has been around for years, the Transphorm team was the first to make it viable at the high voltages used in many everyday electronics. The chips are already in use in power conversion for solar systems and computer servers and could one day be used in power supplies and adapters, motor drives and electric vehicles.

The Fujitsu deal itself is complex but leaves Transphorm in control as majority shareholder. Under the terms of the deal, Fujitsu and its semiconductor arm will found a new company in Japan and pool their existing GaN power electronics assets into it. Through a series of shares and cash transactions, the new Japanese company will be wholly owned by Transphorm, but the Fujitsu companies will have a minority stake in the Goleta firm. The amount of cash in the deal wasn’t disclosed.

In exchange, Transphorm gets access to top GaN-related Fujitsu employees in Japan and will have an exclusive contract to handle GaN wafer processing for Fujitsu Semiconductor’s Aizu-Wakamatsu plant, a major manufacturing facility for high-end electronic components. Work will also continue at Transphorm’s prototyping line in Goleta, the companies said.

In a statement, Transphorm’s CEO Fumihide Esaka, who joined the company in May, said Transphorm will also gain the imprimatur of Fujitsu’s globally known brand.

“In addition to being a future user for GaN solutions, Fujitsu has also built customer relationships with many power management companies in Japan, one of the most important markets for Transphorm,” Esaka said in a statement. “These complementary strengths will enable us to become the world leader in the GaN power conversion business and allow our customers to use our GaN power solutions with confidence.”

In a statement, Fujitsu’s President, Masami Yamamoto, said the Transphorm deal will help the global company meet its goal of integrating more energy-efficient components into its products. The deal will help “to meet Transphorm’s needs by offering low-cost volume production, highly reliable technologies and quality assurance methodologies. This collaboration will greatly accelerate the introduction and market share expansion of Transphorm’s GaN power devices,” he said in a statement.

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