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NIST thinks US public should weigh in on CHIPS Act programs

What should R&D focus on, and how should we structure grants so they're not just a swap for private sector cash?

Momentum is building behind the US CHIPS Act, which aims to revitalize semiconductor manufacturing in America. Now, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is set to ask for public input on two of the programs authorized under the legislation.

The CHIPS Act was signed into law in August as part of the overarching CHIPS and Science Act, approving $52 billion in federal funding for programs designed to provide a boost for the American semiconductor industry and reduce reliance on foreign supply chains.

There are two main components of this initiative: providing financial incentives to encourage investment in domestic semiconductor production; and building collaborative networks for research in an effort to maintain a technological edge.

NIST is issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to cover both components: the CHIPS Incentives Program RFI and Manufacturing USA Institutes RFI. All submissions received in response to the pair of RFIs will be posted on the NIST website.

The Manufacturing USA Institutes RFI concerns the proposed development of up to three new institutes to advance semiconductor manufacturing in the US through research, education and workforce development.

Input is being sought on research focus areas, such as artificial intelligence for chip design, testing and new materials, as well as the structure and governance of the institutes. The RFI will also seek opinion on how research and development activities may be integrated into educational programs for the workforce.

Responses to this RFI are due by November 28, NIST says.

For the Incentives Program RFI, NIST’s CHIPS Program Office is looking for public input on the design and implementation of incentive programs, which may cover grants, loans and loan guarantees to encourage investment in domestic manufacturing capacity. A key concern is structuring those grants, loans and loan guarantees to ensure that they supplement private sector investment rather than substitute it, and how to prevent recipients from spending CHIPS funding on stock buybacks or dividends.

It is also seeking help in identifying the greatest supply chain bottlenecks for American semiconductor factories, and the types of investments that would be most effective in promoting inclusive economic growth for workers and communities.

This RFI is similar to one that NIST issued earlier this year, and the findings of which were published in a report titled "Incentives, Infrastructure, and Research and Development Needs to Support a Strong Domestic Semiconductor Industry". NIST said that responses to the new RFI will be considered alongside those from the previous one when designing incentive programs. ®

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