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U.S. Universities Join Forces to Take on the Chip Shortage

Aug. 15, 2022
The Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics is made up of 12 Midwestern universities that want to support the onshoring of the advanced semiconductor and microelectronics industry.

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As the global semiconductor shortage rages on, organizations, industry groups, universities and entire governments are coming up with ways to tackle the pervasive and impactful disruption. The latest group to throw its hat into the ring is made up of 12 different U.S. universities, all of which have agreed to partner up and take on the chip shortage.

With Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger telling CNBC that he expects the semiconductor industry to suffer supply shortages until 2024, relief can’t come soon enough at this point. Gelsinger expects the global chip crunch to drag on due to constrained availability of key manufacturing tools. “That’s part of the reason that we believe the overall semiconductor shortage will now drift into 2024, from our earlier estimates [of] 2023,” he told the network, “just because the shortages have now hit equipment and some of those factory ramps will be more challenged.”

To help, a dozen Midwestern colleges and universities have formed a network aimed at further bolstering the semiconductor industry in the region. The schools that are taking part in the initiative include:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Michigan State University
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Wright State University
  • Columbus State Community College
  •  Lorain County Community College
  • Sinclair Community College

Working together, the schools plan to “collaboratively develop” innovative solutions in higher education. The Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics will focus on supporting the onshoring of the advanced semiconductor and microelectronics industry, and also address the industries’ research and workforce needs.

“Global disruptions that sparked significant shortages underscored the need for substantial investment and growth in the domestic semiconductor industry so the US can remain competitive,” said Ohio State’s Kristina Johnson in a press release.

“This powerhouse network of research and academic excellence will fuel transformative scientific exploration and economic development while also preparing the workforce of the future,” she continued. “Through this collective approach we will maximize the potential of our individual institutions and make our Silicon Heartland vision a reality.”

Leveraging the Power of One

According to Case Western Reserve University, its president recently signed the memorandum of understanding that formally created the group. The network emerged from a two-day workshop in April hosted by Ohio State, it adds, and follows the Intel Corporation’s January announcement that it will build new, leading-edge chip factories in Ohio. There, Intel plans to build at least two semiconductor manufacturing plants on a 1,000-acre site, with the potential to expand to 2,000 acres and eight fabs.

CWRU says that the 12 partner institutions will leverage existing research, curricular and experiential learning programs, capabilities and expertise to “grow their collective capacity to support the domestic growth of robust semiconductor and microelectronics innovation and supply chain ecosystems.” Some of the activities that the schools will collaborate on include:

  • Developing a common, secure, information-sharing platform to make it easier to identify expertise, equipment, facilities and curricular programs of interest to facilitate joint programming, research and/or outreach initiatives across the network.
  • Encouraging regional collaborations and promoting workshops around opportunities to pursue funding that will grow regional capacity to support identified needs across the semiconductor and microelectronics ecosystems.
  • Developing pilot mechanisms to connect existing research, facilities and curricular/training assets across the region to optimize their use to address regional needs and opportunities.
  • Creating a steering committee with representation from all 12 schools to coordinate the next steps for the network.

“Semiconductors are indispensable to devices we use daily, from smartphones to computers to automobiles,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said in a press release. “We are pleased that, together with our esteemed partners, Notre Dame will be able to use its strengths in semiconductor and microelectronics research to support the economic development of our Midwestern region and our nation at a crucial time.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.