Australia and Japan are closer than ever before these days, and joint ventures entered into by Australian companies are as likely to be with Japanese partners as American. One such has just been agreed between Ramtron Corp, a majority-owned US subsidiary of Australian semiconductor pioneer Ramtron Australia Pty Ltd, and the NMB Semiconductor Company Ltd division of ball bearings manu facturer Minebea Co. The agreement calls for joint development of advanced 4M-bit dynamic memory chips for use in communication, aerospace and defence industries and in cons umer electronics. The programme will bring together the technology developments already under way at both companies. Minebea will be putting up the several millions of dollars for the process research and development, product design and capital equipment investment, and as well as getting paid for product development, Ramtron will receive substantial on-going royalties when NMB Semiconductor starts marketing the chips. The pair will jointly own the jointly-developed technolo gy, but NMB will have exclusive rights to the 4M-bit memory chips. Ramtron’s agreement with NMB foll ows a $10m development and manufac turing pact signed by the Australi an and ITT Semiconductors in June.