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CHIPS Act Passes Congress to Boost US Semiconductor Manufacturing

    “There’s a really deep interconnection between the chip industry and the U.S. defense industry,” said Chris Miller, an assistant professor at Tufts University and the author of Chip War: The Battle for the World’s Most Critical Technology, an upcoming book about the race between the US and China to dominate chips. “Both countries are gearing up for a future of war that is highly computerized.”

    The legislation shows that China’s risks are one of the few things Democratic and Republican politicians can agree on. And it marks a shift in government from confidence in the free market to the kind of industrial policy that has long been out of fashion. On Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described the act as “an important step toward securing America’s scientific leadership and revitalizing America’s ability to make the chips that keep our cars on the road and jets in the air.” to keep.”

    Not all chipmakers have fully backed the legislation, and some worried that the biggest chip companies, such as Intel, which have lobbied heavily for money, could benefit unjustly. Senator Bernie Sanders criticized previous drafts of the legislation, noting that companies queuing to receive money had previously sent jobs abroad, a concern that will remain in the final draft.

    “There are still questions about how the money will be distributed,” Miller says. “We need to make sure we spend it in ways that move the needle and don’t necessarily align with lobbying.”

    The US must not only bolster its manufacturing capacity, but also gain an edge in the most advanced techniques, said Jesus del Alamo, a professor at MIT who studies advanced semiconductor design. “That requires investing in R&D and accelerating the flow of new technologies from university labs,” he says.

    As a result, leading chipmakers like Intel, a company that has made countless mistakes in recent years, will have to make critical decisions about the technologies it invests in. For example, a technology known as advanced packaging, which refers to a way of screwing together different types of chips, promises to open up new possibilities for chip makers. The approach was used by Taiwanese company TSMC to create Apple’s most powerful chip yet, the M1 Ultra.

    Del Alamo was the lead author of a 2021 white paper arguing that government funding should include money for academic research into new microchip technologies, programs that help universities attract new chip companies, and resources to encourage the training of new students. He is involved in a coalition of universities and companies that wants to make concrete funding proposals, given the considerable resources allocated to scientific research.

    It’s important, Del Alamo says, that chips remain a government focus outside of this funding. “In this game, the winner takes everything,” he says. “Whoever comes out with the next most advanced technology takes a disproportionate share of the profits first, and that company can then invest a lot of money in R&D to stay ahead of the game.”