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Commerce Outlines National Chip Center Strategy to 'Strengthen' Tech Leadership

The Commerce Department launched a paper this week detailing its strategy for a National Semiconductor Technology Center, a “key component” of the Chips Act designed to support and improve American leadership and competitiveness in semiconductor research, design, engineering and advanced manufacturing. The paper outlines how the NSTC will “accelerate America’s ability to develop the chips and technologies of the future,” the agency said, including by creating “affiliated technical centers around the country.”

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The NSTC “will ensure that the U.S. leads the way in the next generation of semiconductor technologies which can enable major new advances in areas that will advance our economic and national security,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. “While the manufacturing incentives of the CHIPS Act will bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S., a robust [research and development] ecosystem led by the NSTC will keep it here.”

Commerce said the NSTC will provide a “platform” for government agencies, national labs, chip companies, suppliers, academia, investors and others to collaborate on semiconductor issues. Through paid memberships, participants will share and be able to access research, facilities, workforce programs, data sets and more, the agency said in a fact sheet. The NSTC also will host visiting researchers through fellowships, residencies and technical exchange programs.

The agency noted some international companies and research groups -- such as certain “foreign entities of concern” and the entities they own -- will be restricted from participating. Foreign entities of concern include companies sanctioned by the Treasury Department or that have been convicted of export control violations.

“Additional guidance for international companies will be developed,” the report said. Commerce recently proposed guardrails for recipients of Chips Act funding to restrict the funding from supporting certain “countries of concern,” which includes China, Russia, Iran and North Korea (see 2303210026).

To set up the NSTC, Commerce must form an independent, nonprofit entity that will “serve as the operator” of the center. Nominations for board members are due by 5 p.m. EDT May 10.

The U.S. is hoping the NSTC helps to “drive innovation and speed the transfer of new technologies to market,” said Laurie Locascio, director of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. “This center will give the U.S. semiconductor industry an enduring technological lead and help develop a skilled workforce capable of manufacturing the world’s most advanced devices.”

Semiconductor Industry Association CEO John Neuffer applauded the announcement, saying it “represents a valuable step forward for implementation” of the NSTC, which he called a “cornerstone” of the Chips Act enacted last year. “While we are still reviewing the details set forth in the Commerce Department’s white paper, we are encouraged it reflects industry leaders’ input and recommendations, including those outlined in SIA’s recent report on semiconductor research.”