Addressing the Semiconductor Crisis

Addressing the Semiconductor Crisis

 

By Brian E. Edelman, President, Purdue Research Foundation.

Purdue Research Foundation has been collaborating with visionaries from industry, government, communities, and academia to solve pressing problems. We are working on several fronts, including the national semiconductor crisis that impacts American national security, industry, and consumers.

 

The Semiconductor Problem

The manufacture of semiconductors – essential components in national defense systems, advanced medical equipment, consumer products, and more – has steadily migrated from the United States to East Asia. Before 1990, more than 30% of semiconductors were produced in the U.S. Today, it is less than 15%.

Government and industry leaders correctly say it is unacceptable to rely on international suppliers for universally critical technology. Supply chain delays could leave American industry and the economy susceptible to slowdowns – or worse. There also are concerns that foreign competitors who are among the global leaders of semiconductor manufacturing could make it difficult for the U.S. to gain access to them.

The federal government’s interest in semiconductors is so strong that U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visited Purdue to see the leading-edge research and workforce development efforts that can help the U.S. restore domestic semiconductor manufacturing and competitiveness abroad.

Purdue Research Foundation, Purdue University, the State of Indiana, industry, and other higher education institutions are partnering to address this problem. The university has established educational programs to bolster the semiconductor engineering workforce and PRF is recruiting semiconductor companies to create jobs in and around the university’s West Lafayette campus.

 

Semiconductor Employment

The State of Indiana has invested $2.7 million in the Accelerating Microelectronics Production and Development Task Force, which will secure federal funding and commercial semiconductor opportunities for the state. The AMPD includes representatives from industry as well as Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and Purdue.

The work to recruit the semiconductor industry to Indiana already has reaped rewards. Minnesota-based SkyWater Technology (NASDAQ:SKYT) will build a $1.8 billion state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facility in the Discovery Park District at Purdue, which will create 750 new direct jobs within five years after opening. Additionally, MediaTek Inc., a leading global fabless chipmaker, will partner with Purdue’s College of Engineering to open the company’s first semiconductor chip design center in the Midwest, located at the university’s West Lafayette campus. These are just the first results of this dedicated recruitment effort.

 

Semiconductor Education

Purdue’s Semiconductor Degrees Program, or SDP, is a comprehensive set of innovative, interdisciplinary degrees and credentials in semiconductors and microelectronics. It includes both graduate and undergraduate courses, leading to a quick increase of skilled talent. According to an article in The Washington Post, Purdue currently graduates about 150 semiconductor engineers annually. The new target after the SDP launch is almost seven-fold: 1,000 graduates annually.

The federal government and industry are partnering in their support of the SDP. The program is a cornerstone of the U.S. Department of Defense’s SCALE (Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement) program, the American Semiconductor Academy, and CHIPS Act workforce consortia. Also, industry executives from Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel, MediaTek, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Semiconductor Industry Association, SkyWater Technology, and other companies will advise the program as members of a leadership board.

Purdue also is partnering with Ivy Tech Community College, which will develop corporate training programs for industry-driven credentials, including certificates and certifications, develop curriculum for associate and bachelor’s degrees, conduct outreach in high schools to increase student interest in microelectronics and attract semiconductor companies to Indiana to provide well-paying jobs. The collaboration also will expand the workforce by deploying virtual training tools and creating access to online courses.

 

Bringing Everyone Together

Finding robust solutions to address challenges facing the economy, national security and quality of life becomes easier when multiple perspectives come together. It is one of the reasons Purdue Research Foundation was established: to bring together leaders from academia, industry, and government to find solutions for all. Our combined strength will turn this national challenge into a growth opportunity for Indiana.

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