Reaffirming US Leadership in Micro Electronics

The shortage of semiconductors in the world has led to major product bottlenecks with headlines and rising prices for everything from refrigeration to SUVs. The lack of chip has greatly reduced the critical role that semiconductors play in many aspects of everyday life.

But years before the pandemic hit, the United States was already in the throes of a crisis. The long-standing dominance of micro-electronics innovation and manufacturing has been eroded by intense international competition over the past several decades. Ensuring US leadership in micro-electronics is now a priority for industry and the government not only for economic reasons but also for national security.

In a new paper, a team of MTA researchers argues that the country’s strategy for reaffirming its position as a semiconductor should include universities, which are at the forefront of developing new technologies and training highly skilled manpower. “Reinforcement of US Leadership in Micro Electronics” provides a series of recommendations on how universities can play a leading role in the global effort to regain international reputation for semiconductor research and manufacturing.

“It was clear that universities have a big role to play in the return to leadership in micro electronics manufacturing. According to lead author Jesus Del Alamo, our goal is to build these national programs in a balanced way, using the vast resources and talents that American universities can carry.

Other co-authors are Dmitry Antoniais, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Ray and Maria State; Robert Atkins, Head of Advanced Technology at Lincoln Laboratory; Mark Baldo, Dougal C. Jackson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of Electronics Research Laboratory; Vladimir Bulovich, Chairman of Fariborz Maseeh in Emerging Technology and Director of MIT.nano; Mark Gocker, Assistant Head of Advanced Technology at Lincoln Laboratory; Craig Cest, Co-Director of Advanced Technology and Director of Operations at Lincoln Laboratory Micro Electronics Laboratory; Hai-Sen Lee, Professor of Advanced Television and Signal Processing, Director of Electrical Engineering and Micro Systems Technology Laboratories; William Oliver, Professor at EECS, Director, Quantum Engineering Center, and Associate Director, Electronics Research Laboratory; Thomas Pallacius, Professor at EECS; Max Shulaker, Associate Professor in EECS; And Karl Thompson, Stavros Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Director of Materials Research Laboratory.

Lack of leadership

Inventing semiconductor technology by US scientists The birth of Silicon Valley in the 1950s led to the United States becoming a major player in semiconductor research and manufacturing, but its dominance has been declining for decades. Only 12 percent of semiconductor chips are produced in the United States today. It is down 37 percent from 1990, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

One of the reasons for that decline was the massive infrastructure investment made by countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and China over the past few years. According to Del Alammo, those investments have boosted their domestic micro-chip company and led some US companies to open overseas manufacturing facilities.

The chip factory, also known as Fab, costs up to $ 10 billion, so when companies decide to build a new facility, they make a big economic deal. Government incentives play a role in deciding where a factory will be located in the form of tax benefits, cheap land, and direct subsidies.

According to a report from the Semiconductor Industry Association 2020, when economic incentives are taken into account, manufacturers in the US and Asia will lose 30 percent of their costs.

U.S. policymakers are working to close that gap by providing $ 52 billion in federal investments for domestic semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing under CHIPS. Congress is considering another law, the FABS Act, which establishes a semiconductor investment tax credit.

Manpower growth

As the authors point out on a white paper, economic incentives are only part of the picture.

Reaffirming leadership in semiconductor manufacturing requires thousands of new, highly skilled workers, and universities contribute a large part of the workforce to the industry. Expanding the size and diversity of this workforce will be key, but many students will be left in the lurch of hard tech, such as computer science. Attracting more students requires exciting laboratory courses, encouraging research experiences, well-developed practices, and support from industry consultants, as well as friends at all levels and many other initiatives.

“We are in the process of producing enough engineers for the semiconductor industry at every level, and we are talking about a big expansion, so it will not add anything,” said Del Alamo. By expanding existing programs and involving institutions that have not previously participated.

Enabling creativity

Universities have also played a significant historical role in providing basic research, and the country must rely on an academic laboratory to generate new innovations.

But many universities have aging infrastructure that is nearing the end of its life. The authors of the White Paper argue that the US should invest in university infrastructure – both capital and human resources – and support research and educational activities. Significant improvements are needed for research institutes to remain relevant to universities, industry, and modern equipment. A.D. Launched in 2018, the 214,000-square-foot, $ 400 million MIT. Says Dell Alamo.

“It’s not just the lack of transistors. Future improvements require new materials, new processes, reconfigurable equipment, and new integrated systems, ”said Mit.nano Founder Director Farbourz Maseh, Professor Vladimir Bulovich. The technologies we relied on ten years from now may not look like today. Academic innovations must disrupt the existing technical roadmap and skip the implementation of current systems. Maintaining a strong relationship between today’s industry and academia will enable our best ideas to grow the existing industry and launch new technical projects.

Getting started plays an important role in innovation, and universities have long been centers of entrepreneurship.

The authors argue that this requires strong collaboration with universities, prototype facilities, national labs, and business founders.

MIT, run by MIT, partnered with Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research institute in Lexington, Massachusetts, to create otherwise impossible micro chip innovations, says Dell Alamamo.

Bob Atkins, chief technology officer at Lincoln Laboratory, says: “The integration supports the discovery and development of disruptive micro-electronics technology, and enables the translation of ideas into practical applications.

Utilizing the full potential of universities requires a strategy to develop regional networks in which various institutions, including colleges and community colleges, work together to create collaborative research and educational programs that include industry partnerships.

For more than 35 years, MIT has benefited from the Micro Systems Industrial Group, which conducts research and education activities, directs students and teachers, and provides financial support. Working closely with industry will help faculty appreciate and understand the exciting but important issues that need to be addressed in their research. Such a short-term partnership will be even more important in the future, says Del Alamo.

“I am very grateful to my colleagues for the white paper. I totally agree with the vision and direction given here, which has inspired me to look at how I, as an individual researcher and educator, can contribute to this,” said Jing Kong, a professor of electrical engineering and chief researcher at the Electronic Research Laboratory. Universities play a vital role in reaffirming US leadership in micro-electronics. My hope is that the white paper will serve as a guide and guide for administrators and policy makers, facilitating and utilizing the capacity of the university’s education and research.


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