In the wake of a worldwide semiconductor chip manufacturing shortage, U.S. government and industry leaders are looking for ways to rapidly ramp up domestic production while prioritizing continued innovation. As a result, academia is playing an increasingly vital role in the country’s microelectronics capabilities.
In April 2022, the Department of Defense launched its “microelectronics commons,” the focus of which is to unite members of academia, small businesses, government labs and startups in the creation of regional microelectronics innovation hubs.
Dr. Victoria Coleman, who is credited with originating the concept during her time at the University of California, Berkeley, said the commons initiative will help the best new microelectronic technologies achieve commercialization faster, at a lower cost and with national interests in mind.
“The commons straddles these two extremes, where at one end you can build three devices and at the other end you need to build literally billions of them at very high cost,” Coleman said. “What it means is that, first of all, we will not be relying on our peer adversaries to prove out our innovations.”
Coleman called this practice of relying on other global powers for the United States’ capabilities and technologies a “national emergency.”
She also noted that this dependence could have more far-reaching consequences in the future workforce. “If you let go of production, that means that you are de-skilling the workforce, and it eventually brings you to the place where you can’t do design either,” she posed.
In response to the growing national need for skilled workers in this field, Purdue University has created a Semiconductor Degrees Program — the first of its kind in the U.S. — which aims to build up the “next-generation of semiconductor workforce to reassert American preeminence in this critical industry.”
The program was officially launched in May 2022.
To learn more about microelectronics and semiconductors in the U.S., join ExecutiveBiz Events for its Microelectronics Forum on June 14.
Devanand Shenoy, principal director of microelectronics within the Defense Department’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, will serve as keynote speaker. Click here to register.