Renesas Snaps Up GaN Specialist Transphorm for $339 Million

January 22, 2024 by Jake Hertz

The acquisition marks a larger trend of consolidation in the GaN industry.

The power electronics industry has undergone a huge amount of growth in the past decades with the emergence of high-power applications like electric vehicles, robotics, and renewable energy. One market that has greatly benefited from this upswing is gallium-nitride (GaN), which enables denser and more efficient power electronics.

In a move that reflects a larger industry trend of GaN acquisition, Renesas recently announced that it will be acquiring GaN manufacturer Transphorm.


Transphorm CEO Dr. Primit Parikh (left) and Renesas CEO Hidetoshi Shibata

Transphorm CEO Dr. Primit Parikh (left) and Renesas CEO Hidetoshi Shibata. Image used courtesy of Renesas

What does Transphorm have to offer Renesas? And what might this acquisition mean for the GaN market as a whole? 


Transphorm's Unique Flavor of GaN Technology

Transphorm is known for its novel GaN-on-Sapphire technology, which uses high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) on sapphire substrates instead of traditional silicon. Transphorm claims this process provides better insulation and enables devices to operate at much higher voltages with fast-switching and low-loss capabilities.

While GaN transistors on silicon substrates support up to 650 V, GaN-on-Sapphire supports a 1,200 V GaN transistor with a device efficiency of 98.7%, according to Transphorm. The company claims that this technology offers system designers a high-power density solution with competitive pricing compared to existing 1,200-V solutions​.


Transphorm’s cascode GaN

Transphorm’s cascode GaN (TPH) compared to standard enhancement mode (e-mode) solutions. Image used courtesy of Transphorm

Beyond GaN-on-Sapphire, Transphorm's SuperGaN Gen IV platform focuses on enhancing performance, manufacturability, and cost-effectiveness. Compared to previous generations, the Gen IV platform offers a 10% improvement in figure of merit, improved inrush capabilities, and an on-channel resistance of 35 mΩ. With over 200 billion field hours of testing, the devices have demonstrated a reliability of less than 0.03 failures per billion hours (FIT). 

It’s thanks to this impressive lineup of technology that Renesas has agreed to acquire Transphorm for $339M. With this acquisition, Renesas hopes to expand its reach into high-voltage markets including data centers, renewable energy, and electric vehicles.


Big Chipmakers Consolidate GaN Expertise

Renesas’ acquisition of Transphorm continues the pattern of consolidation in the GaN industry. For years, larger chipmakers have been acquiring GaN suppliers—like ST's acquisition of Exagan back in 2020 and Infineon's more recent acquisition of GaN Systems for $830M in November 2023. 

This race for consolidation is largely a response to the escalating demand for GaN technology across various sectors. 


The U.S. GaN devices market

The U.S. GaN devices market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 25.6% between 2023 and 2030. Image used courtesy of Grand View Research

As this technology matures, larger semiconductor companies are recognizing the strategic importance of incorporating GaN into their product offerings to stay competitive. Acquiring smaller, specialized GaN firms allows these larger entities to quickly integrate advanced GaN expertise and intellectual property into their portfolios.

GaN development also poses significant challenges in terms of research and development costs, technical expertise, and manufacturing complexities. For larger companies, acquiring an established GaN company is often more cost-effective and less risky than building an in-house team from scratch. This approach allows them to bypass the initial developmental hurdles and directly access mature technology and market presence.


Plenty of GaN Companies Remain

While this acquisition marks one less GaN supplier on the market, plenty of other small GaN specialists remain, including Efficient Power Conversion (EPC), Cambridge GaN Devices, QPT, and VisIC Technologies. Navitas Semiconductor is also a big name in GaN. These companies may be targets for chipmaker acquisitions in 2024 and beyond.