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Commerce Department Requests Information on Supporting a Strong U.S. Semiconductor Industry

The U.S. Department of Commerce is calling for information that will guide programs designed to support a strong domestic semiconductor industry. The Request for Information published today in the Federal Register asks for input to inform the planning and design of potential programs to incentivize investment in semiconductor manufacturing facilities and associated ecosystems; provide for shared infrastructure to accelerate semiconductor research, development, and prototyping; and support research related to advanced packaging and advanced metrology to ensure a robust domestic semiconductor industry. 

“The United States faces both an immediate supply shortage that’s driving up prices and a long-term threat to America’s economic and national security if we don’t increase domestic supply of chips,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “As demand for semiconductors will only increase, we need smart, strategic investments to shore up our domestic supply chain – and we need it now. Not only to address current shortage and supply chain issues but to help position America to lead globally by investing in our semiconductor manufacturing and R&D and enhance American competitiveness.”

Semiconductors are fundamental to nearly all modern industrial and national security activities, and they are essential building blocks of other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, 5G communications and quantum computing. To strengthen the U.S. position in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing, the Biden Administration is seeking full funding for the CHIPS Act programs.

“We urge Congress to pass the pass the President’s proposed $52 billion in funding for domestic semiconductor production as part of legislation similar to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” Raimondo added. “This much-needed legislation also has funding to incentivize investments in new semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the U.S. as well as billions to establish a National Semiconductor Technology Center.”

Congress authorized a set of programs in Title XCIX (“Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors in America”) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 (Pub. L. No. 116-238). This comprehensive set of programs is intended to restore U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing by providing incentives and encouraging investment to expand manufacturing capacity for the most advanced semiconductor designs, as well as those of more mature designs that are still in high demand.

These programs would also support growth of the research and innovation ecosystem for microelectronics and semiconductor R&D in the U.S., including investments in the infrastructure necessary to better integrate advances in research into semiconductor manufacturing.

The U.S. semiconductor industry has historically dominated many parts of the semiconductor supply chain, such as research and development (R&D), chip design and manufacturing. Over the past several years, the U.S. position in the global semiconductor industry has faced numerous challenges. In 2019, the United States accounted for 11% of global semiconductor fabrication capacity, down from 13% in 2015 and continuing a long-term decline from around 40% in 1990. Much of the overseas semiconductor manufacturing capacity is in Taiwan (led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), South Korea (led by Samsung), and, increasingly, China.

The Department of Commerce published the RFI to seek input on a potential set of programs in general and the following topics specifically:

  • A semiconductor financial assistance program that would provide funding, through a competitive process, to private entities, consortia of private entities, or public-private consortia to incentivize the establishment, expansion, or modernization of semiconductor manufacturing facilities and supporting infrastructure.
  • A National Semiconductor Technology Center to serve as a hub of talent, knowledge, investment, equipment and toolsets.
  • An advanced packaging manufacturing program that focuses on the challenge of embedding fragile computer chips into very small configurations that combine multiple systems resulting in benefits including lower costs, increased functionality and improved energy efficiency.
  • The current and future workforce development needs of the semiconductor industry.

DOC may hold workshops to explore in more detail questions raised in the RFI and will announce any workshop dates and registration deadlines on www.nist.gov/semiconductors.

Comments are invited from all interested parties, domestic or foreign, including semiconductor manufacturers; industries associated with or that support the semiconductor industry, such as materials providers, equipment suppliers, manufacturers and designers; trade associations, educational institutions and government entities; original equipment manufacturers; semiconductor buyers; semiconductor industry investors; and any other stakeholders. 

Comments should be submitted via regulations.gov (DOC-2021-0010) by 5 p.m. Eastern time on March 25, 2022.

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