US President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday announced the investment of US$5 billion in a newly established public-private consortium aimed at supporting research and development in advanced computer chips.
The National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) is being funded through the CHIPS and Science Act. That 2022 law aims to reinvigorate the computer chip sector within the US through tens of billions of dollars in targeted government support.
Stakeholders in the chips industry gathered on the White House campus to discuss how the NSTC should prioritize research and worker training for an industry poised to expand because of government backing.
COVID-19 exposed the risk to the US economy and national security of an overdependence on Taiwan for advanced chips, while the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to drive demand for newer and more innovative chips.
“This is an inflection point in the industry,” US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told the group. “Not just because we’re dangerously dependent on one country for so many of our chips, but because AI is going to lead to an explosion of demand for chips, for sophisticated chips, more energy-efficient chips, cost-effective chips.”
The NSTC would help to fund the design and prototyping of new chips, in addition to training workers for the sector.
Companies say they need a skilled workforce to capitalize on the separate US$39 billion being provided by the government to fund new and expanded computer chip plants.
Officials are also working to prevent China from benefiting from NSTC-funded research, while filling gaps in the US research ecosystem for key areas such as packaging and hardware, Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology Laurie Locascio said in an interview.
“They’re investing quite a few dollars on chip design and chip manufacturing in China right now, as our main competitor,” Locascio said. “We are clearly thinking very, very hard about how we put up the right guardrails within our funding opportunities — how we protect IP, how we develop research security programs.”
Locascio added that US officials are “laser focused” on research security.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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