Samsung Electronics and the Korean government have recently disclosed their interest in opening a Semiconductor Department in KAIST and other research-based universities. Although the KAIST Educational Program for Semiconductor Industry (KEPSI) already provides an educational environment with a guaranteed internship at SK Hynix for graduate students, this program will primarily focus on undergraduate students.
Recently, Samsung Electronics and President Moon have invested 133 trillion KRW and 1 trillion KRW, respectively, on research and development to further encourage the development of non-memory chips. President Moon claimed that such an investment in the department is necessary to support such an indispensable field with low competition in the market.
With the direct investment, increased human capital may further accelerate competitiveness in the field. Samsung Electronics and the Korean government’s vision of the possible department consists of 100 undergraduate students who would be guaranteed a position at Samsung upon completion of the four-year undergraduate program.
Such a “contract-based” department is not unprecedented. Even now, Samsung Electronics has similar contracts with Sungkyungwan University and Kyunbook National University’s semiconductor departments. Their programs also guarantee employment for the participating students. Currently, only Yonsei University has accepted the new program and is planning on accepting its first freshmen next year. While KAIST and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have yet to decide, Seoul National University (SNU) is already devising a curriculum and is even considering incorporating a graduate program as part of the proposed contract.
Samsung Electronics continues to remain tight-lipped regarding the program, claiming that they are still “discussing [the details] with the government”. However, while Samsung Electronics is hesitant in providing concrete information about the program, as there is a dire need for improved manpower in the field of non-memory chips, there are large prospects for the program to take place imminently. In fact, although this program is originally supposed to begin in 2022, the field’s urgent need for stimulus may prompt universities to create contract-based semiconductor departments by 2021.