By Shannon Davis, Web Editor
Deputy Secretary Don Graves of the U.S. Department of Commerce joined SEMI President Ajit Manocha on the keynote stage Tuesday morning to share the current status of the CHIPS Act, as well as address the current struggles of the chip supply chain.
“This is unprecedented collaboration with the Department of Commerce,” Dr. Manocha said of having the Deputy Secretary at this year’s SEMICON West. In SEMI’s 50 years, Dr. Manocha said the conference had never had a speaker from the Department of Commerce.
“Now is the most important time for us to be collaborating and having deep discussions about the future of the industry,” Mr. Graves told everyone, adding that it is absolutely vital that the industry and the federal government work collaboratively to address the current chip shortage.
“We’ve seen the challenges that we’re facing – we know it’s particularly problematic in chips,” he said. “Folks are realizing that chips power everything that we do… we have to make sure that we’re developing the type of supply chain resiliency here in the U.S. and across the globe.”
To build this resiliency, Mr. Graves stressed the importance of passing the CHIPS for America Act, a bill that would provide over $50B in federal investments in semiconductor manufacturing and research and enact an investment tax credit. Graves sees the passing of the CHIPS Act as the top priority of his department for building a healthy, robust chip supply chain.
“We believe we are very, very close [to passing the CHIPS Act],” Mr. Graves told Tuesday’s audience, suggesting Congress could pass the bill within weeks or even days – a move that would give the government the ability to make long-term investments aimed at bringing chip manufacturing back to the U.S.
“I’m heartened by what the industry is doing about bringing back manufacturing to the U.S.,” said Mr. Graves, referencing Ford and GM’s announcement earlier this month, “but we can do a better job of seeing what’s on your end and what’s occurring in the industry, so we can make better decisions as it relates to policy.”
And the key to making this happen, according to Mr. Graves, is going to be industry coordination. The Department of Commerce, he says, wants to continue to hear from chipmakers.
“As we start laying out the rules and the implementation [of the CHIPS Act], we need your help – we need to know how to strategically invest those dollars,” he said. “Some people have said ‘throw money into building a couple big fabs and that’s the path,’ but that’s clearly not the right approach. We need a healthy ecosystem. Certainly we need more U.S. fabs, but we have to do that in a way that’s sustainable in the long run.”
To build a sustainable, resilient ecosystem, Mr. Graves stressed the importance of building strong partnerships across the globe.
“It’s absolutely clear that if we’re not providing the right types of incentives, other countries will pull away from the U.S.” he said. “There’s not a way that we’re going to be able to keep pace with China and Taiwan and other countries if we’re not providing the right types of incentives to bring jobs and innovation here.”
In addition to tax incentives and federal investments, Mr. Graves and Dr. Manocha both emphasized the industry-wide need to attract more talent into the workforce. Mr. Graves said that his department, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Education, believe in the implementation of training programs for the tech sector.
“Our colleges and universities should be putting out graduates that will take these jobs, and that’s not happening today,” said Mr. Graves. Ideally, Mr. Graves said he would like to see programs that start in middle school and high school to pique kids’ interest in STEM careers and put them on a pathway toward jobs in the tech industry.
In speaking on his department’s next steps toward these goals, Mr. Graves said his team is currently going through surveys they’ve gathered that will help inform what will happen after the CHIPS Act is passed with regard to that investments that will be made in 2022. He said that his team will be returning to the industry to share findings and continuing to gather information.
“We’ll always welcome guidance and information that you have to share,” Mr. Graves told the audience in conclusion.