University-Industry Engagement Week

Arizona State U positioned to reap the rewards of its semiconductor research as CHIPS Act dollars begin to flow


By David Schwartz
Published: January 23rd, 2023

The CHIPS and Science Act is releasing $52 billion over the next half decade, and Arizona State University has been working for years to prepare for the opportunity.

According to Grace O’Sullivan, vice president of corporate engagement and strategic partnerships for ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, the university began thinking about its role in semiconductor research five years ago, working with many partners along the way.

“It’s an interdisciplinary effort to make all of this work between government agencies, universities and community colleges, and these things don’t happen overnight,” she said during a webinar about the CHIPS Act sponsored by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. She was joined on the webinar by Sean Fogarty, vice president of international business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“GPEC and ASU, under the vision of ASU President Michael Crow, have been planning this for years,” O’Sullivan said.

Arizona is going to be a major player in what promises to be a lucrative semiconductor research environment, in large part thanks to a $40 billion investment by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which is building two gigantic chip-fabricating centers in north Phoenix.

“TSMC said they chose Arizona because of the cooperation between public and private entities, and we were proud of that and continue to work as a team,” O’Sullivan said. She was part of a state team that visited Taiwan three years ago during the pitch to attract the company to the state.

Part of Arizona’s preparation for the boom in America’s semiconductor industry is the New Economy Initiative, a massive collaboration among the state’s three public universities, private companies, and state government to bring Arizona to the frontier of high-tech industry. The state-funded program says it will create 40,000 new high-wage jobs by 2041 and double the return on the state’s investment by the same year.

ASU will be a major player in several ways, including workforce development, increasing the number of engineers and in bridging the critical “lab to fab” gap — the time lag between when technology is invented and when it’s ready to be put into use.

One important component to that will be ASU’s MacroTechnology Works in Tempe, a unique lab and fabrication space that is open to both university researchers and community partners, from tiny ventures to big corporations.

O’Sullivan noted that the U.S. imports more than 90% of the microchips it uses. “U.S. manufacturing capacity has eroded from 37% of the market to 12% today,” she said.

“A lot of it was because it was cheaper to make things overseas, and also the U.S. didn’t invest as heavily in these industries with incentives as much as countries in Asia did. We’re now trying to capture the moment on how Arizona is becoming ‘Semiconductor Central.’”

Taiwan Semiconductor’s $40 billion investment is one of the largest foreign direct investments in U.S. history and will create a massive ripple effect in everything from shopping to K–12 education, Fogarty said. “It will create 4,500 high-wage jobs, lead to over 21,000 construction jobs and over 13,000 jobs at supplier companies,” he added.

“It’s not just PhDs and masters and bachelors we need. It’s also high school-leavers we’re hoping to help, and people in other industries who can be reskilled to take on these high-wage jobs,” Fogarty commented.

ASU has leveraged its expertise at several points along this multiyear initiative, O’Sullivan said, from having faculty involved in drafting parts of the CHIPS legislation to having the Kyl Center for Water Policy advise local leaders on water use by semiconductor manufacturers.

“We were just visiting with TSMC this morning to talk about talent needs,” she said.

“We want to be that epicenter of innovation and design, bringing all of our assets.”

Source: ASU News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week