WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday outlined plans to boost research into the type of advanced microchips needed to power computers, cars and other devices, saying it would create a new national organization with locations in different parts of the United States. United States.
The Department of Commerce, which is responsible for the government’s efforts to revitalize the U.S. chip industry, said the new National Semiconductor Technology Center would bring companies, universities and others together to collaborate on next-generation chip technology. The organization would include a series of research centers, the location of which has yet to be chosen, and aims to be operational by the end of this year.
The organization would help “regain America’s leadership in research and development and technologies of the future, and, more importantly, ensure that we stay there for decades to come,” Gina Raimondo, the Secretary of Commerce, said Monday in a briefing.
“It’s a place where industry and academia and startups and investors can come together to solve the biggest, biggest challenges and set priorities,” she added.
The plans are part of the Biden administration’s effort to revive semiconductor manufacturing and ensure the United States has a steady supply of chips needed to power its factories and support its national defense. to support. The Department of Commerce is tasked with doling out $50 billion to revitalize the industry, $11 billion of which is earmarked for research and development.
The technology center is expected to be central to that effort. Some sites would allow end-to-end production of new chip designs, while others would focus on experimenting with new materials and equipment, or new ways to assemble chips to make them more powerful, Ms. Raimondo said.
Laurie Giandomenico, the vice president and chief acceleration officer of MITER, a nonprofit that operates federally funded research centers, called the $11 billion investment by the United States “quite significant” given that the semiconductor industry has made about $70 billion in recent years. spent on research and development worldwide.
The challenge, she said, would be to ensure that the money was spent encouraging collaborative research to solve the industry’s biggest problems, and not the “silo innovation” now being carried out by chip makers who carefully protect their creations from competitors.
“It should be in areas that no company can solve alone,” she said.
Businesses, universities, legislators and local governments lobbied the administration to set up an outpost of the new organization in their areas. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader and an author of the legislation that funded the semiconductor investment, said in a statement Tuesday that he was pushing for Albany, NY, to be a location for the new organization.
“Albany is poised to serve as a leading innovation center of the NSTC,” he said.
In the briefing, Ms. Raimondo stressed that the organization would be an independent “trusted” player, with board members appointed by a separate selection committee and strict controls for intellectual property protection.
One of the organization’s main goals, Ms. Raimondo said, would be to make it easier and cheaper for start-ups and other entrants to develop and commercialize new chip technologies.
“We want to cut the projected cost of moving a new chip from concept to commercialization in half in the next decade by half,” she said.
Chris Miller, the author of “Chip War,” which chronicles the industry’s development, said it was relatively easy for a researcher to develop a new idea for a chip in a lab. But given the high cost of manufacturing chips, researchers may find it difficult to get their inventions manufactured.
Analysts say designing an advanced chip, which could contain tens of billions of transistors, could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The newest systems for defining the smallest circuits on wafers cost more than $100 million each, while the new factories called “fabs” that make advanced chips could cost $10 billion to $20 billion.
“The big factories are interested in producing 100 million chips for an iPhone, not 10 chips for an MIT professor,” Miller said.
Venture capitalists also often shy away from investing in chip start-ups because they require more initial funding than other types of technology companies and have more time to recoup that investment.
To address some of these issues, the government’s technology center will set up an investment fund to support start-ups and provide production facilities for small players to experiment with new technologies.
“I see a world where the US can actually revive this microelectronics industry because we can reduce the cost of starting a chip by a factor of five to a factor of 10,” said Gilman Louie, a technology investor. and CEO of a nonprofit investment organization called America’s Frontier Fund.
The center’s research priorities are expected to be refined in the coming months. But the Department of Commerce specified several areas it would focus on, including advancing the technology for analyzing the microscopic components of chips and setting technical standards for new types of chip packaging.
As progress slows in squeezing smaller and smaller transistors onto each piece of silicon, many companies are now breaking large products into smaller “chiplets” that are placed side by side or stacked on top of each other.
The Department of Commerce said setting new standards for these practices would pave the way for creating marketplaces for companies to assemble new products using chiplets from multiple suppliers.