This may seem weird but don't give us all the chip funding, say Intel and friends

Semiconductor Alliance wants US R&D billions to be dished out fairly, broadly, objectively


A newly formed group is calling for the US to ensure efforts and public funding to boost the nation's domestic semiconductor industry benefits a broad family of stakeholders, not just a few companies.

The Semiconductor Alliance, which took form mid-2021, just got the backing of three major American chipmakers, including Intel – the processor giant that has put itself front and center in urging Congress to pass $52 billion in chip funding. The second latest big supporter, Micron Technology, has also made some noise about the subsidies while we haven't seen as much from the group's third major supporter, Analog Devices.

The question is: does Intel really want to lift all boats, so to speak? Bear in mind that the x86 giant, as part of its comeback plan, is trying to revitalize its foundry business. The success of that effort relies on a variety of companies, big and small, entrusting Intel to manufacture their chips. To get to that point, those companies may well need a helping hand.

The Intel-Micron-Analog support was announced Wednesday by the alliance's creator, MITRE Engenuity. You may recognize MITRE as the not-for-profit research and development organization that maintains the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) system virtually everyone uses to track security issues in products and code bases. MITRE Engenuity is a subsidiary.

The Semiconductor Alliance is focused on shaping the National Semiconductor Technology Center, or NSTC, which requires money from Congress's $52 billion chip funding bill to get started. As proposed, the NSTC would serve as hub for advanced research and development that brings together private companies, government agencies, national labs, and academics, with the goal of benefiting the broader semiconductor industry.

The Semiconductor Alliance said it wants to ensure the NSTC is "fair and objective" by defining a "strategic path forward" that benefits all the group's members and not just one or a few, an MITRE spokesman told The Register. In other words, the NSTC, with its billions in public funding, should support a wide range of US-based organizations and teams.

Intel, Micron, Analog Devices and MITRE Engenuity have already reached an agreement on what this should entail, and the group hopes this framework will ensure that semiconductor research is fairly funded and also doesn't fall into the hands of foreign entities.

As such, the group wants participation from a broad range of entities involved in the US semiconductor industry. That would include integrated device manufacturers, fabless chip designers as well as providers of design, manufacturing, and infrastructure tools. The group also wants to hear from businesses and academics who are working on new technologies.

Laurie Giandomenico, head of MITRE Engenuity, said the Semiconductor Alliance's work will help the US better compete against China, which is rapidly expanding its own semiconductor industry.

"By forging innovative partnerships based on trust and neutrality, Intel, Micron, Analog Devices, and MITRE Engenuity through the Semiconductor Alliance are aligning the interests of industry, government, and universities to collaborate and grow the semiconductor industry on US soil," she said.

"The semiconductor industry in the US is at an inflection point," said Ann Kelleher, executive vice president and general manager of technology development at Intel. "There has never been a more important time to come together as an industry to establish the path forward to advance the foundation of innovation that will help solve the nation's biggest challenges."

The Semiconductor Alliance's principles on how the NSTC should operate were first laid out last fall in a white paper [PDF] that received contributions from people who work for Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Analog Devices, as well as semiconductor industry players Lam Research, Synopsys, and others.

In the white paper, MITRE Engenuity argued the NSTC needs to make a "whole-of-nation" approach to grow the US semiconductor industry by building out the country's network of manufacturing facilities, establishing an investment fund for startups, ramping up workforce training and ensuring that the NSTC's governance model is crafted to avoid conflicts of interest and not favor any one entity or region.

MITRE Engenuity said these are all important goals, because the US currently "lacks mechanisms for coordinating 'full-stack' approaches for technology development." It pointed out that "no single company" has the capabilities to do everything from materials to applications.

"Our core objective is to ensure that American innovation leads to American growth," it said. ®

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