SAN JOSE, Calif. – In the final weeks of his administration, President Obama has convened a group of semiconductor veterans to study the top issues affecting the chip industry in the U.S. The group is expected to submit a report to the next administration recommending significantly higher federal spending on semiconductor research.
A new working group under the well-established President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will look at ways to strengthen the U.S. industry in the face of competition from China and the growing cost and complexity of pursuing Moore’s law.
“Some countries that are important in this domain are subsidizing their domestic semiconductor industry or requiring implicit transfer of technology and intellectual property in exchange for market access,” the White House said in a thinly veiled reference to China in a statement online announcing the new work group.
Indeed, China has prepared a $20 billion investment fund in semiconductors. It also helped organize a $100 billion private fund to spur increasingly active investments in chip M&A deals.
“The industry may also be approaching technological and economic inflection points,” around the slowing pace of Moore’s law, the new U.S. group added.
Indeed, Intel is already stretching out its time between process nodes beyond the traditional 18-24 months. Engineers are working harder to find new ways to deliver performance increases and power and price declines given traditional scaling techniques are breaking down as processes approach physical limits.
The statement suggested it will recommend “additional public and private investments in R&D” as part of a “set of recommendations on initial actions the Federal government, industry, and academia could pursue to maintain U.S. leadership in this crucial domain.” It gave no specifics of how long it will take to arrive at those recommendations.
In a sign of the importance the administration gives the issues, it appointed a top White House technology advisor and PCAST chair John Holdren to co-chair the work group along with former Intel chief executive Paul Otellini. Other members of the group include:
- Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman
- John Hennessy, President Emeritus of Stanford
- Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm
- Ajit Manocha, former CEO of GlobalFoundries
- Craig Mundie, a former senior advisor to Microsoft
- Mike Splinter, former CEO of Applied Materials
- Laura Tyson, a professor at UC Berkeley and NEC Director
The Semiconductor Industry Association recommended forming such a task force on policy for the semiconductor industry, SIA chief John Neuffer said in an online statement applauding the move.
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