2020 has been an eventful year for the semiconductor industry. The pandemic has heightened everyone’s awareness and appreciation of what semiconductor tech brings to the world, which is great, but it’s also highlighted the increasing dependence the U.S. has on goods manufactured in Asia, particularly China and Taiwan. That’s true of many kinds of goods, including medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, but it’s increasingly true for semiconductors.
What I’ve found encouraging this year is a newfound interest in revitalizing semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. This effort is led by the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents 95 percent of the U.S. semiconductor industry by revenue and nearly two-thirds of non-U.S. chip firms.
So far this year, the SIA has released several important studies that focus on the benefit of government investment in U.S. semiconductor R&D and manufacturing, and backed the introduction of two important bills to Congress: The CHIPS for America Act and The American Foundries Act (see our October cover story for a quick overview). The group along with the Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC), which directs funding at the academic level, also recently came out with an interim “Decadal Plan” how to best manage investment in the semiconductor industry. The full Decadal Plan is scheduled to be published in December 2020. SIA and SRC will host a virtual workshop coinciding with the release of the full report.
It’s too soon to know if the two acts will be enacted, but earlier this year the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes an amendment calling for the establishment of a federal grant program to promote semiconductor manufacturing, as well as federal investments in semiconductor research.
Another report out recently that should be on everyone’s “must read” list is from a U.S.-based “think tank” called Information and Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF). The report, titled “An Allied Approach to Semiconductor Leadership” calls for like-minded allied nations to collaborate on technology and ecosystem development, intellectual property, and trade liberalization. It’s a detailed and thought-provoking report that highlights the global nature of the semiconductor supply chain.
Finally, in case you missed it, the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS™) 2020 Edition came out this year as well, which reads much like the old ITRS with some added info on systems level challenges and solutions. Check that out at irds.ieee.org. The authors take pains to note that the industry labeling of nodes that is “completely devoid of any connection to reality” which I found to be hilarious. We will reach the 1nm when again? Ha!