During the worst days of the pandemic, a chip shortage may have stopped you from buying a Ford F-150 or Sony PlayStation. Now some of the $53 billion in federal funds to try to ease the problem could help boost a new chip manufacturing research center in Silicon Valley.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday visited Applied Materials’ Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters as the chip manufacturing equipment supplier details a $4 billion investment center in California’s high-tech hub for a 30% boost to the pace of processor manufacturing advancements. The $53 billion hasn’t been doled out yet, but Applied Materials’ new center is exactly the kind of US research and development facility it’s designed to help.
Chip progress has slowed in recent years because of the physics and engineering challenges of miniaturizing chip circuitry. At the same time, much of the chip making business has moved out of the United States to Taiwan, South Korea and other Asian nations.
The pandemic induced chip shortage revealed global supply chain problems and showed just how much the United States economy relies on overseas manufacturing for arguably the most important components in just about everything with a battery or power plug. The result was the 2022 passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, with its $53 billion subsidy for chip research and manufacturing. So far, the Commerce Department has received 300 statements of interest from applicants hoping to tap into the funds.
Applied Materials’ new 180,000-square-foot Equipment and Process Innovation and Commercialization Center is designed to speed up progress and anchor the industry in the US. At the EPIC Center, Applied Materials hopes to speed up both the adoption of new ideas from academia and their transfer to the companies like TSMC, Samsung and Intel that actually build the chips.
Just how much money the EPIC Center gets from the government will determine how big it’ll become. The company expects to spend up to $4 billion over seven years, most of it in the first three years.
“We believe EPIC is the right platform for the industry regardless of government incentives. However, the scale of the center will be subject to the level of government incentives,” Applied Materials said in a statement.
Applied Materials is one of the top companies that manufactures chipmaking equipment. It’s what companies like Intel, Samsung and TSMC buy so they can build the processors in phones, cars, toys, TVs, military equipment, appliances and many more products. It’s on the leading edge of efforts to continue progress in making chip circuitry smaller, more efficient, and more powerful.
The EPIC Center is expected to employ 1,500 construction workers when it’s being built and to create 2,000 engineering jobs once it’s up and running.
By the White House’s accounting the CHIPS and Science Act has spurred $140 billion on corporate semiconductor manufacturing investments so far.