WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department is establishing eight regional microelectronics hubs in seven states across the country aimed at helping spur manufacturing innovation to bolster the domestic semiconductor-industrial base.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters during a Sept. 20 briefing at the Pentagon that the awards total $238 million. Each innovation hub is receiving between $15 million and $40 million to establish initial operations, she added.
The home bases for the eight hubs are:
New York, led by the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute.Arizona, led by Arizona State University.North Carolina, led by North Carolina State University.Indiana, led by the Applied Research Institute.Ohio, led by the Midwest Microelectronics Consortium.Southern California, led by the University of Southern California;Northern California, led by Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley.Massachusetts, led by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
“The regional hubs will spur economic growth, not just locally but more broadly,” Hicks said. “The hubs will help ensure we have the talent pool needed to stay ahead through education pipelines and retraining initiatives. And it’s part of how DoD is reducing our reliance on foreign components, keeping us safe from the risks of supply chain disruption.”
In the last 30 years, the U.S. has gone from producing 37% of the global microchip supply to about 12%. Today, Taiwan produces most of the world’s supply of advanced semiconductors, and China exports a large portion of its microchips to the United States. These chips power everything from cellphones to cars to the F-35 fighter jet.
To help address vulnerabilities to the domestic microelectronics supply chain, Congress last year passed the CHIPS Act, which provided $52 billion to fund semiconductor workforce improvement efforts, research and development, and manufacturing through 2026.
The Defense Department received $2 billion in CHIPS Act funding, which it is using to establish the Microelectronics Commons — a national network of academic institutions, small business firms and research entities working together to push microelectronics technology projects from the laboratory into prototyping and scaled production.
The commons will be made up of “cores,” or chip foundries, that provide access to prototyping and help reduce technology integration risk. The innovation hubs will help connect research projects to those regional foundries.
The department expects to spend about $400 million annually through 2026 to equip the hubs and execute various technology projects focused on six areas: electronic warfare, quantum technology, security at the edge, the internet of things, 5G and 6G networking, and dual-use capabilities.
The department in October will hold its first Microelectronics Commons meeting, after which it expects to issue its first call for projects, according to a senior defense official who spoke to reporters prior to the formal hub announcement. Organizations not selected to lead the innovation hubs will have a chance to compete for those projects.
“The projects that come through will be a mix of very near term and slightly longer term,” the official told reporters in a Sept. 19 briefing. “The outcome of a successful project will be something that can be taken to scale in a U.S.-based foundry.”
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