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Jan 24 -- The Department of Commerce (Department), with the assistance of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is seeking information in order to inform the planning and design of potential programs to: Incentivize investment in semiconductor manufacturing facilities and associated ecosystems; provide for shared infrastructure to accelerate semiconductor research, development, and prototyping; and support research related to advanced packaging and advanced metrology to ensure a robust domestic semiconductor industry. Responses to this Request for Information (RFI) will inform the planning of the Department of Commerce for the potential implementation of these programs. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on March 25, 2022.
 
Semiconductors are fundamental to nearly all modern industrial and national security activities, and they are essential building blocks of critical and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, next generation communications, and quantum computing.

The U.S. semiconductor industry has historically dominated many parts of the semiconductor supply chain, such as research and development (R&D), chip design, and manufacturing. Over the past several years, the U.S. position in the global semiconductor industry has faced numerous challenges. In 2019, the United States accounted for 11 percent of global semiconductor fabrication capacity, down from 13 percent in 2015 and continuing a long-term decline from around 40 percent in 1990. Much of the overseas semiconductor manufacturing capacity is in Taiwan (led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), South Korea (led by Samsung), and, increasingly, China.

Furthermore, the fragility of the current global semiconductor supply chain was put squarely on display in 2020. The industry faced significant disruptions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a fire affecting a major supplier in Japan, and a severe winter storm that disabled production in facilities in Texas for several days. Together these events and other factors such as pandemic-induced shifts in consumer demand contributed to a global semiconductor shortage that affected multiple manufacturing sectors which rely on semiconductors as critical components for their finished products. Especially severely hit was the automotive industry, which saw plants idled for months.
 
To strengthen the U.S. position in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing, Congress authorized a set of programs in Title XCIX (“Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors in America”) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 (Pub. L. 116-283). This comprehensive set of programs is intended to restore U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing by providing incentives and encouraging investment to expand manufacturing capacity for the most advanced semiconductor designs as well as those of more mature designs that are still in high demand, and would grow the research and innovation ecosystem for microelectronics and semiconductor R&D in the U.S., including the investments in the infrastructure necessary to better integrate advances in research into semiconductor manufacturing.

President Biden's American Jobs Plan calls for at least $50 billion to fund this set of programs, and Congress is considering legislation with similar funding levels over the next 5 years. If funded as proposed in the United States Innovation and Competitiveness Act (USICA) S.1260:

$39B would be directed to incentivize the construction or modernization of facilities in the U.S. for semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, advanced packaging, or R&D; another $11.2B would support several R&D and infrastructure investments including the establishment of a National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC), investments in advanced packaging, the creation of a Manufacturing USA institute targeting semiconductors, and expansion of NIST's metrology R&D in support of semiconductor and microelectronics R&D.
 
This RFI invites the public to inform the design and implementation of the set of potential Department of Commerce programs laid out in the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Pub. L. 116-283) (NDAA). Comments are invited from all interested parties, domestic or foreign, including semiconductor manufacturers; industries associated with or that support the semiconductor industry, such as materials providers, equipment suppliers, manufacturers, and designers; trade associations, educational institutions, and government entities; original equipment manufacturers; semiconductor buyers; semiconductor industry investors; and any other stakeholders.

The Department of Commerce seeks input on the potential set of programs in general and the following topics specifically:

Semiconductor Financial Assistance Program—The incentive program, under Section 9902 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Pub. L. 116-283) (NDAA), should it be funded by Congress, will be competitively awarded to private entities, consortia of private entities, or public-private consortia to incentivize the establishment, expansion, or modernization of semiconductor manufacturing facilities and supporting infrastructure. Funds will target production of leading-edge and mature logic chips, analog chips essential to critical industries and defense needs, and memory chips.
 
National Semiconductor Technology Center—Under Section 9906 (c) of the NDAA, the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) is authorized to conduct advanced semiconductor manufacturing R&D and prototyping; establish an investment fund; and promote and expand workforce training and development opportunities. As authorized, the Department currently envisions the NSTC as a hub of talent, knowledge, investment, equipment and toolsets that tackles Moore's Law transitions, research into new materials, architectures, processes, devices, and applications, and, most importantly, bridges the gap between R&D and commercialization. Should NSTC be funded by Congress, companies would be expected to co-invest and participate in developing their own intellectual property together with NSTC staff, and to collaborate with other companies, universities and Federal labs on pre-competitive technologies and designs.
 
Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program—Advanced packaging and heterogeneous integration present a significant opportunity for innovation, leading to better yields, lower costs, greater functionality, reuse of intellectual property blocks enabling accelerated design iterations and customization, and improved energy efficiency. With support, there is a unique opportunity for U.S.-based equipment suppliers and manufacturers to lead in this critical area.
 
Workforce Development Needs of the Industry—The growth and sustainment of the Nation's semiconductor industry depends on a highly skilled workforce capable of meeting current and future needs of the public and private sectors.
 
The goal of this RFI is to gather input that will be utilized to develop resources and programs to protect and extend U.S. semiconductor technology leadership; secure the supply of chips for critical, commercial and non-commercial U.S. sectors; and promote the economic viability of U.S. industry in R&D, manufacturing, and other critical areas of the semiconductor value chain, should the Creating Helpful Incentives for the Production of Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act programs be funded by Congress.

The Department may hold future workshops to explore in more detail questions raised in the RFI. Notice and details about any potential future workshop dates and registration deadlines will be announced at www.nist.gov/​semiconductors.

Press release -- Commerce Department Requests Information on Supporting a Strong U.S. Semiconductor Industry https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2022/01/commerce-department-requests-information-supporting-strong-us
FR notice requesting information: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/01/24/2022-01305/incentives-infrastructure-and-research-and-development-needs-to-support-a-strong-domestic

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