ASU receives $39.8M federal grant to create microelectronics innovation hub
Arizona State University has landed a $39.8 million federal grant to create a regional network for microelectronics education, research and development in the Southwest.
The U.S Department of Defense on Wednesday announced it awarded $238 million in CHIPS Act funding to eight recipients nationwide — including ASU — to establish regional innovation hubs through what’s known as the Microelectronics Commons program.
The Southwest Advanced Prototyping Hub — led by ASU — will provide a collaborative forum for regional technology leaders, including Sandia National Laboratories, University of Colorado Boulder, University of New Mexico, and private sector firms, to accelerate and enhance microelectronics research efforts, according to a university announcement.
The hub will consist of nearly 70 corporate, startup, academic and national lab partners from the semiconductor and defense sectors throughout the Southwest.
“This is the first major national security-oriented research and development laboratory ever built in the state of Arizona, and Arizona State University is extremely honored to play a key role in making this happen,” Michael Crow, president of ASU, said in a statement. “There is important work ahead, and this opportunity would not exist without the leadership of Sen. Mark Kelly and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. They were critically important to the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act and have been tremendous supporters of industry investment and expansion in Arizona. ASU has been deeply invested in this work, but without the senators and the 70 partners who are a part of this effort with us, we wouldn’t be here.”
The Microelectronics Commons program is intended to scale semiconductor technology and expand workforce needed in the sector by building partnerships in research and development, manufacturing, and government.
Hubs to focus on US military microchips
With a total of $2 billion in federal funding through 2027, the Microelectronics Commons program aims to leverage the eight hubs to accelerate domestic hardware prototyping and “lab-to-fab” transition of semiconductor technologies to mitigate supply chain risks and expedite access to cutting-edge microchips for the military, according to the Department of Defense.
The hubs will be advancing technology in the following areas: secure edge/Internet of Things computing; 5G/6G wireless; artificial intelligence hardware; quantum technology; electromagnetic warfare and commercial leap ahead technologies.
The Department of Defense said funding for the regional innovation hubs marks the largest award to date under the CHIPS Act.
“The Microelectronics Commons is focused on bridging and accelerating the ‘lab-to-fab’ transition, that infamous valley of death between research and development and production,” Kathleen Hicks, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, said during a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. “While America is a world leader in the innovative research and design of microelectronics, we’ve lagged in the ability to prototype, manufacture and produce them at scale. That’s what the CHIPS Act is meant to supercharge.”
Arizona’s microelectronics sector employs 22,000
In December, Crow appointed Sally Morton, executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, and Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, to lead a team of faculty, staff and strategic partners in a proposal for a regional innovation hub in the Southwest.
ASU will prioritize connecting students, researchers and designers at universities and companies in the region with prototyping capabilities, further advancing a model established by the university’s MacroTechnology Works, a facility that accelerates semiconductor and energy device research in the U.S., the Business Journal previously reported.
The microelectronics industry employs more than 22,000 people in Arizona, and the state’s broader semiconductor supply chain ecosystem includes leading equipment manufacturers, chemicals and materials suppliers, semiconductor packaging firms and defense electronics companies.
“ASU’s SWAP Hub will allow university researchers, students and industry partners to rapidly scale new tech ideas and inventions to return the U.S. to its place as a leader in the high-tech industry,” Fred DuVal, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, said in a statement. “On behalf of the Arizona Board of Regents, congratulations to ASU and its education and industry partners.”
Sen. Mark Kelly, a chief negotiator in the CHIPS and Science Act, worked closely with ASU and business and industry groups to boost Arizona’s role in semiconductor research and development.
“Today’s historic investment will enable researchers to discover, test and commercialize breakthrough technologies in the United States. That’s why I created the Microelectronics Commons, so that America, not China, builds the next generation of microchips,” Kelly said in a statement. “This will put our growing microchip industry and ASU’s research and innovation in the driver’s seat to power our economy and strengthen our national security.”
More information on the program will be shared at the Microelectronics Commons annual meeting in October.