12 Midwestern Universities Team to Boost Semiconductor Supply Chain

By Oliver Peckham

August 8, 2022

The combined stressors of Covid-19 and the invasion of Ukraine have sent every major nation scrambling to reinforce its mission-critical supply chains – including and in particular the semiconductor supply chain. In the U.S. – which, like much of the world, relies on Asia for its semiconductors – those efforts have taken shape through the recently passed U.S. CHIPS and Science Act, which directs tens of billions of dollars toward new American semiconductor fabs. Intel, meanwhile, is making a $20 billion investment in two new chip factories in Ohio, on which the company is about to break ground. In the wake of these developments, 11 Midwestern colleges and universities have formed a network aimed at further bolstering the semiconductor industry in the Midwest.

“Global disruptions that sparked significant shortages underscored the need for substantial investment and growth in the domestic semiconductor industry so the U.S. can remain competitive,” said Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State University. “This powerhouse network of research and academic excellence will fuel transformative scientific exploration and economic development while also preparing the workforce of the future. Through this collective approach we will maximize the potential of our individual institutions and make our Silicon Heartland vision a reality.”

The network is called the Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics (none have yet shortened that to “MRNANNSM” – nor, perhaps, should they). The dozen institutions – listed below – include two from Indiana, two from Michigan and eight from Ohio.

  • Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Columbus State Community College (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Lorain County Community College (Elyria, Ohio)
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana)
  • Sinclair Community College (Dayton, Ohio)
  • University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
  • University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Indiana)
  • Wright State University (Fairborn, Ohio)

The significant showing from universities in Ohio is, of course, no accident. The network was born out of a two-day workshop held by Ohio State University in early April of this year. At that workshop, the universities discussed how they could take advantage of the investment and research opportunities presented by Intel’s fab investment in Ohio and the company’s complementary $50 million investment in higher education in Ohio. “How can we all come together to ensure Intel is successful?” asked Johnson at the time. “Why don’t we show the country how we can truly get together and do something that will be unique?”

A rendering shows early plans for two new leading-edge Intel processor factories in Licking County, Ohio. Announced on Jan. 21, 2022, the $20 billion project spans nearly 1,000 acres and is the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio history. Construction is expected to begin in late 2022, with production coming online at the end of 2025. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Less than four months later, the presidents of the dozen universities signed a memorandum of understanding to form the network. The premise of the network remains broad at the moment: leveraging each university’s research, capabilities and expertise to support the growth of the semiconductor and microelectronics industries in the U.S. Representatives say that the network’s initial activities include developing a shared and secure information-sharing platform, promoting regional funding workshops and developing pilot mechanisms to connect universities’ relevant assets to one another.

“These new investments bring unprecedented opportunities for our students and faculty,” said Alan Seabaugh, director of Notre Dame Nanoscience and Technology. “It is exciting to see semiconductor manufacturing taking a foothold in the Midwest. Through this new collaboration, our students and researchers will be well-positioned to serve this urgent need.”

The network is not limited to its initial dozen members, and representatives expect it to grow over time.

For more on the CHIPS and Science Act, read HPCwire‘s prior coverage.

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