Applied Materials wants Uncle Sam's help with $4B chip R&D nerve center

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Applied Materials, a maker of semiconductor fabrication equipment, plans to plow $4 billion into a collaborative research and development facility in Silicon Valley over the next seven years — if Uncle Sam is willing to chip in, so to speak.

The 180,000 square foot Equipment and Process Innovation and Commercialization (EPIC) Center is expected to create 2,000 engineering jobs and provide chipmakers and university researchers with a space to develop and prototype designs on next-generation process tech and pre-release equipment, if the facility comes online in 2026.

“The industry needs a new model that breaks down traditional silos, builds denser networks of collaboration, and delivers tighter feedback loops that can increase the speed and lower the cost of innovation,” a company said in a statement.

The semi-shop differs from most of the chip-related projects we’ve seen crop up in the wake of the US CHIPS and Science Act. This isn’t a foundry or advanced packing facility like we’ve seen from the likes of TSMC, Samsung Electronics, SK hynix, or Intel. Applied Materials is an equipment vendor; it produces tools used in the manufacturing of semiconductors.

The idea sounds a bit like Xerox PARC but for semiconductor design and manufacturing. For chipmakers, it’s an opportunity to work on, play with, and validate designs at an earlier stage. For Applied Materials meanwhile it presents a chance to develop tools and equipment better suited to emerging semiconductor tech. The company expects the facility to speed development of new semiconductor tech by as much as 30 percent compared to today.

So far, Applied Materials claims support from more than a dozen chipmakers, foundry operators, and universities, including Intel, AMD, TSMC, MIT, and UC Berkeley, to name a few.

Of course, Applied Materials isn’t willing to foot the bill of building such a large facility themselves, they expect the US government offset at least some of the cost. In a statement, the company emphasizes that the size and scope of the R&D center will depend heavily on the availability of government subsidies and tax incentives made available under the CHIPS bill.

Passed last summer, The US CHIPS and Science Act made roughly $52.7 billion available to advance American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development.

While most of the funds — $39 billion — were slated for semiconductor companies looking to advance US manufacturing projects, $11 billion was set aside for public-private research and development centers to be administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It’s the latter fund, we’re told, that Applied Materials is vying or. ®

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