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Hybrid SEMICON West 2022

Remarks as prepared.

It is a true pleasure to be able to join all of you today. I am excited to share how we at NIST are working to advance semiconductor R&D, and how we are preparing for the CHIPS Act. Given the level of engagement this industry has had with CHIPS Act planning, this is a topic a lot of people are thinking about.

I’ll start by talking about our mission at NIST. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people in the room today are familiar with NIST, but I want to take a little time to talk about who we are, because it provides context to some of the discussion we are going to have today.

NIST was formed in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards and became the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, in 1988. We are part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Our mission is very clear. NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness. We do this by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security.

And we are one of the few federal agencies that has had a consistent mission over the entirety of its existence. Today, NIST measurements support the smallest of technologies to the largest and most complex of human-made creations — from quantum devices to earthquake-resistant skyscrapers and global communication networks. 

From making sure that a gallon of gas is indeed one gallon to our recent work to standardize COVID-19 tests across the world and to benchmark tests for monkeypox to developing the most accurate and precise quantum clock in the world to which every transaction on Wall Street is time-stamped.  

We are sometimes called industry’s national lab because we partner so closely with industry to understand your gaps and needs, and that is how we focus our efforts.

At NIST, we partner with industry across the continuum from basic and applied research to technology solutions, to manufacturing, to both measurement standards (like artifacts to measure the strength of steel or well-characterized whole genomes to benchmark the quality of whole genome sequencing) and documentary standards (that we work on in support of U.S. industry through private-sector-led SDOs).

Our HQ is in Gaithersburg, Maryland. We have a second campus in Boulder, Colorado. We also have atomic clock signal stations in Colorado and Hawaii.

We have an even broader footprint through several joint institutes and Centers of Excellence.

The NIST workforce is approximately 7,000 strong — 3,500 NIST employees and approximately 3,500 associates (students and contractors), which gives us a constant infusion of new energy and ideas to keep us at the cutting edge of science and technology.

NIST not only works on measurement and documentary standards. We will soon lead the execution of the United States Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology.  

And as we prepare for that rollout, NIST continues to lead in the development of federal standards policy to ensure continued U.S. global economic competitiveness and technology leadership. 

I will also add that NIST has helped develop and will soon run a Department of Commerce Action Plan that will serve to operationalize many aspects of the forthcoming U.S. government strategy. For those unfamiliar with Commerce, some of the agencies include PTO, BIS, NTIA and NOAA.

More broadly, NIST is the federal laboratory with a mission entirely focused on driving U.S. innovation and supporting U.S. businesses and the nation’s economic security. So NIST leads in fundamental research and standards development in many critical and emerging technology areas.  

These have been our core designated priority research areas for the past 10 years or so, and our work in quantum goes back more than 25 years and has resulted in four of our five Nobel prizes.

As broad as some of the areas shown on the screen may seem, the single most important factor that underpins all of them is — advances in chip technology.

NIST continues to lead the development of fundamental research and foundational metrology necessary for growing our domestic semiconductor industry.  

NIST has conducted research on semiconductors since the late 1940s, when the field was created by the development of semiconductor devices called crystal diodes for radar during World War II and the invention of the transistor when semiconductors were an emerging technology.

NIST has had a formal program in semiconductors since 1968, and we have worked closely with the semiconductor industry to solve key measurement challenges all along the way. We have strong capabilities in:

  • fundamental and applied research;
  • standards leadership; and also
  • industrial partnership — that allows us to work closely with the private sector.

Our current work builds on a long history and portfolio of targeted investments in microelectronics that spans broad areas — from materials metrology and simulation at the nanoscale, to dimensional, optical, electronic, magnetic, and mechanical properties of nanostructures — and our work on beyond-CMOS technologies.

All of our work benefits from strong basic and applied research conducted here in the United States. 

And although the United States has some strong basic and applied research capabilities — as many of us in the room know — the status quo is changing — rapidly. 

The nation is at a critical juncture with respect to our competitive position in today’s global economy.  

Today, we face significant competition in technology innovation, and navigating the global digital transition will be critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.  

Concerns associated with increasing global competition have only been amplified when we look at the fragility and lack of resilience in our supply chains — as disruptions caused by the pandemic, various natural disasters, lack of domestic manufacturing capability, and geopolitical instability over the last few years are still being felt today. 

NIST has a unique mission — to advance U.S. innovation — with an enduring focus to ensure the United States captures the full benefits of technology innovation. The NIST mission has never been more important, as we strive to secure leadership in critical technologies both through our research and our partnerships with the private sector.  

So, the CHIPS for America Act, which I know most of us are thinking of today, is intended to address some of these challenges.

The overall goals for CHIPS are:

  • Protect and extend US semiconductor technology leadership.
  • Ensure a secured supply of chips for critical sectors.
  • Promote long-term economic viability of U.S. industry in R&D, manufacturing, and other critical parts of the semiconductor value chain.

Most people who’ve been following the CHIPS Act over the last year probably know these numbers by heart now. 

The language in draft legislations provides $52 billion over five years. Of the $52 billion, $39-plus billion goes toward financial incentives and $11-plus billion goes toward R&D. There is a strong workforce component in both programs.

The R&D program includes the National Semiconductor Technology Center, Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program, NIST Internal Semiconductor R&D, and one or more Manufacturing USA Institutes.

The programs shown here are the ones being administered by the Department of Commerce and NIST. There is an additional $2 billion for secure chips and commercialization of microelectronics R&D that is being administered by the Department of Defense.

Collectively, these programs are intended to help restore American semiconductor manufacturing capacity and create a robust collaborative research effort which will help capture our fair share of leading-edge technologies.

The R&D parts of the CHIPS Act include activities by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Defense. The image on the chart gives you an idea of how these programs might fit in with each other across the continuum from early TRL to late stage TRL. 

So, where are we now? It has been an interesting year.

As you know, the Senate and the House have passed separate bills that including funding for the CHIPS Act. They are currently in conference in a bill that combines the two — the Bipartisan Innovation Act. 

These things always move slowly — until they move quickly. 

They’ve made tremendous progress over the last month, and we are closer than ever to getting the Bipartisan Innovation Act to the president’s desk. 

Both sides of the aisle recognize they’re not going to get everything they want, and all understand the importance of getting this done. 
Chipmakers are finalizing their plan for new fabs. As you know, other countries are doing their own “chips act” and offering to let companies start building while our bill sits in Congress. 

  • China has already invested $150 billion in their domestic chip manufacturing. They spend more on their subsidized industries — like semiconductors — than they do on their military because they know this is where the future will be won. 
  • The E.U. has committed between $30 to $50 billion to spur chip production in Europe.
  • India has committed $30 billion. 
  • Japan has passed $6.8 billion in chip manufacturing subsidies.
  • South Korea has provided tax credits and subsidies aimed at building the largest semiconductor supply chain in the world by 2030.

Like I said, we’ve made incredible progress, and now is the time to get this across the finish line. 

As we wait for congressional action, the Department of Commerce and NIST are doing as much planning as we can — to ensure we are ready on Day 1 — to implement the CHIPS Act.

Teams are in place at both the Department of Commerce and NIST, and are working on different aspects of the implementation plan.

We recently completed a Request for Information (RFI) to get input from you, our stakeholders, on how these programs should be implemented. We received over 200 unique responses to the RFI.

We are currently reviewing the responses and will issue a report once the review is over.

We have also done a lot of industry engagement and outreach, including direct stakeholder engagement, public workshops, and industry roundtables.

As we review the RFI responses, we see a few broad themes:

  • All parts of the CHIPS Act program should be closely coordinated for maximum impact. 
  • We need to make sure that we invest to in a broad set of technologies.
  • A skilled workforce is important to all sectors of the semiconductor ecosystem, and it should an important part of our implementation.
  • And of course, IP issues — and what you want both the NSTC and the Advanced Packaging program to do.

We have also been working closely with you to learn how best NIST can implement some of the research and development we are specifically tasked to do under CHIPS. We organized two workshops in April, to get input from you, our stakeholders. 

The first workshop focused on areas such as metrology for materials and dimensional scaling, and in-line metrology issues.  The second included topics such as metrology for advanced packaging and security and trust in the semiconductor supply chain.  

Although we continually hear from companies we collaborate with, this was a good opportunity to hear from a broader part of the ecosystem. Some of the things we heard from you include what measurement needs are most important to you and how to address those needs in a timely manner. 

In summary, I want to go back to some of the broad objectives of the CHIPS Act:

  • to increase capacity in domestic semiconductor manufacturing emerging technologies;
  • to promote critical supply chain resilience;
  • to strengthen the national capacity for manufacturing innovation and expand workforce development efforts; and
  • to deliver important measurements and technology to semiconductor R&D.

NIST is ready, willing, and able to make it happen.

Created August 18, 2022, Updated August 19, 2022