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Chip fab locations more important than oil well placement, says Gelsinger

Intel CEO not surprised by US export controls on tech to China

Intel chief, Pat Gelsinger, reckons US export controls on chip technology to China are an inevitable part of rebalancing the country's supply chains. Where those semiconductor fabs are located will be more important in future than where the oil wells are.

Meanwhile, the company's chip manufacturing division, Intel Foundry Services (IFS), is firing up a new initiative that will position the company as the trusted source of chips for the US government and military, in partnership with others in the semiconductor industry.

Gelsinger, speaking at the Wall Street Journal's annual Tech Live conference in California, said that nobody should have been surprised by the restrictions placed on China.

He added that he did not push for the new rules, even if they are expected and seemed at times to be conflating the export controls with the US CHIPS Act program, which was designed to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

"Taiwan plays such a critical role for the technology supply chains, but it's precarious in that situation, and we need more balance in the supply chain, even the Taiwanese vendors believe deeply that they need their supply chains to become more balanced," he explained.

"Where the oil wells are has defined geopolitics for the last five decades. Where the fabs are for the next five decades is more important," Gelsinger said."

Elsewhere, Intel Foundry Services announced its USMAG (United States Military, Aerospace and Government) Alliance. This aims to combine a "trusted design ecosystem" with US-based manufacturing facilities in order to deliver "assured chip design and production" to meet design and production requirements of national security applications, Intel said.

Clearly, Intel sees itself as that US-based manufacturer in question, and claims to have signed up initial members comprising businesses in the semiconductor supply chain such as Cadence, Synopsys, Siemens Digital Industries Software, Intrinsix, and Trusted Semiconductor Solutions.

"Semiconductors enable technologies critical to US national security and economic and global competitiveness," said the president of Intel Foundry Services, Randhir Thakur. "Intel is committed to restoring end-to-end chipmaking leadership through major investments in both R&D and scale manufacturing here in the United States."

And in case anyone was in any doubt where Intel sees itself in the whole scheme, Thakur added: "As the only US-based foundry with leading-edge process capabilities, IFS is uniquely positioned to lead this effort and galvanize the ecosystem to build a more resilient and secure supply chain for US military, aerospace and government customers."

According to Intel, a closely coordinated effort between chip manufacturers and companies offering electronic design automation (EDA), IP and design services is crucial to deliver the functional and operational security required by MAG applications.

The alliance aims to ensure that tools provided by EDA members are optimized to deliver secure design methodologies and can operate in secure design environments while meeting the requirements of the IFS process design kits. The latter are libraries of basic components created by the foundry for use in chip fabrication.

Intel added that the new USMAG Alliance builds on the company's role in the US Department of Defense's Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes – Commercial (RAMP-C) program. This was an earlier industry partnership to ensure the DoD could use Intel's fabs to make chips for critical defense systems.

Earlier this month, the chip giant detailed plans to expand the role of Intel Foundry Services so that it serves the company's own internal design teams on the same basis as it makes chips for external customers as a contract manufacturer. ®

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