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Midwest universities unite to support US chip industry revival
Alliance will hopefully give students path to job as well as backing Intel's Ohio fab plans
A dozen US midwestern research colleges and universities have signed up to a project intended to bolster the semiconductor and microelectronics industries with combined research and education to ensure work for their students in high-tech industries.
The "Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics" consists of a dozen institutions, made up of eight from Ohio, two from Michigan, and two from Indiana. Their stated aim is to support the onshoring efforts of the US semiconductor industry by addressing the need for research and a skilled workforce.
According to Wright State University, the network was formed in response to Intel's announcement that it planned to build two chip factories near Columbus, Ohio, and followed a two-day workshop in April hosted by the state.
Those plans, revealed in January, are to build at least two semiconductor manufacturing plants on a 1,000-acre site, with the potential to expand to 2,000 acres and eight fabs.
At the time, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said he expected it to become the largest silicon manufacturing location on the planet. Construction started on the site at the beginning of July.
However, the university network was also formed to help address the broader national effort to regain American leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics, or at least bring some of it back onshore and make the US less reliant on supplies of chips manufactured abroad.
Apart from Wright State University, the 12 institutions involved in the network are: Columbus State Community College, Lorain County Community College, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, Sinclair Community College, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, University of Michigan, and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.
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The president of each institution has signed a memorandum of understanding to form the network, and the expectation is that the group will expand to include more than these dozen initial members.
The intention is that the institutions taking part will be able to make use of each other's existing research, learning programs, capabilities, and expertise in order to boost their collective ability to support the semiconductor and microelectronics industry ecosystems.
Challenges for the network include developing mechanisms to connect existing research, and training assets across the region, and developing a common information sharing platform to make it easier to identify opportunities for joint programming and research across the network.
University of Cincinnati chief innovation officer David J Adams called the announcement a game-changer. "This highly innovative approach illustrates that we're all in this together when it comes to meeting industry workforce and research needs," Adams wrote in a posting on the University of Cincinnati website.
The move follows the long-awaited passage of the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act at the end of last month, of which $52 billion of the total spend is expected to go towards subsidizing the building of semiconductor plants such as Intel's, and boosting research and development of chip technology. ®