CHIPS Act passes Congress to boost US semiconductor production

Chris Miller, assistant professor at Tufts University and author of The Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Important Technology, a forthcoming book on the race between the United States and China for control of chips. “Both countries were preparing for a future of war that relied heavily on computing.”

The legislation shows that the risks posed by China are one of the few things Democratic and Republican politicians can agree on. It points to a shift in government from belief in the free market to the kind of industrial policy that has long been out of fashion. On Wednesday, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo called the work “an important step toward securing America’s scientific leadership and revitalizing America’s ability to make the chips that keep our cars on the road and fighter jets in the air.”

Not all chip makers fully supported the legislation, with some concerned it could unfairly benefit the biggest chip companies like Intel that lobbied hard for money. Senator Bernie Sanders has criticized previous drafts of the legislation, noting that companies that go along with receiving the money have previously sent jobs abroad, a concern that persists in the final version.

“There are still questions about how the money will be distributed,” Miller says. “We need to make sure it’s spent in ways that move the needle and don’t necessarily align with lobbyists.”

Jesus Del Alamo, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies advanced semiconductor designs, says the United States not only needs to boost its manufacturing capacity, but also gain an edge in more advanced technologies. “This requires investment in research and development and an acceleration of the flow of new technologies from university laboratories,” he says.

This will leave leading chip makers like Intel, a company that has made many mistakes in recent years, with critical decisions to make about which technologies to invest in. For example, a technology known as advanced packaging, which refers to the method of snapping together different types of chips, promises to create new possibilities for chipmakers. This approach was used by Taiwan’s TSMC to create Apple’s most powerful chip to date, the M1 Ultra.

Del Alamo was the lead author of the 2021 white paper arguing that government funding should include funds for academic research into new microchip technologies, programs that help universities create new chip companies, and resources to encourage the training of new students. It is involved in a coalition of universities and companies that plan to submit specific funding proposals, given the large funds earmarked for scientific research.

Del Alamo says it is important that chips remain the focus of the government after this funding. “In this game, the winner takes it all,” he says. “Whoever comes out with the next, more advanced technology first takes a disproportionate amount of profits, and this company can then invest a lot of money in research and development to maintain the lead.”

CHIPS Act passes Congress to boost US semiconductor production

Source link CHIPS Act passes Congress to boost US semiconductor production

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