Newly-Announced $3.4 Billion Plan Aims to Stimulate US Semiconductor R&D

November 04, 2020 by Luke James

The SIA and the Semiconductor Research Corporation have released a preview of an upcoming report that outlines the next decade’s chip research and funding priorities.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) released the preview of their upcoming report in mid-October. In it, the two groups outline their chip research and funding priorities over the next decade that they say will help strengthen U.S. semiconductor technology and bring growth in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. 


Graphic of the impact of the semiconductor industry

Graphic of the impact of the semiconductor industry. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices, SIA, and SRC

The report, which was put together with contributions from a range of leaders across academia, government, and industry, also calls for $3.4 billion of annual federal research and development funding to help firms keep pace with developments in five areas: smart sensing, memory, storage, communication, security, and energy efficiency.


The Decadal Plan

Known as the Decadal Plan, the document refers to these five areas as the “seismic shifts” shaping the future of chip technology. It also acknowledges how investments from the U.S. government and private sector firms have propelled the rapid pace of innovation and spurred massive growth throughout not only the U.S. but global economies.  


Part of the initiative is to invest $600 annually over the next 10 years in analog research

Part of the initiative is to invest $600 annually over the next 10 years in analog research. Image used courtesy of SIA and SRC

“As we enter a new era, however, a renewed focus on public-private research partnerships is necessary to address the seismic shifts facing chip technology. The federal government must invest ambitiously in semiconductor research to keep America on top in semiconductors and the game-changing future technologies they enable,” says SIA’s president and CEO John Neuffer. 

The Decadal Plan’s additional federal investment would strengthen the U.S. semiconductor industry’s position as a global leader, add $161bn to U.S. GDP, and create half a million U.S. jobs during the course of the next 10 years, according to the SIA, which expects that their report and its specific goals, recommendations, and targets will have a “major impact” on the semiconductor industry.


The "Seismic Shifts" of the Decadal Plan

These specific goals and targets are split across the five aforementioned “seismic shifts”, and the Decadal Plan makes specific recommendations on how the extra $3.4bn should be allocated for the best return and growth prospects:

  1. Smart sensing: “Fundamental breakthroughs” in analog hardware are needed to generate smarter world-machine interfaces that can sense, perceive, and reason.
  2. Memory and storage: The growth of memory demands will surpass global silicon supply and present opportunities for “radically new” memory and storage solutions.
  3. Communication: Always-available communication requires new research directions that address the imbalance of communication capacity vs. data generation rates.
  4. Security: Breakthroughs in hardware research are needed to address emerging security challenges in interconnected systems and AI. 
  5. Energy efficiency: Increasing energy demands for computing vs. energy production is creating new risks, and new computing paradigms offer opportunities with improved energy efficiency. 


The Plan May Reflect the Future of the Industry

These five areas have been identified as key because of their huge semiconductor market share. Information and communication technologies account for almost 70 percent of it, and they are continuing to grow thanks to the exponential creation of data, which itself presents a significant challenge when it comes to movement, storage, analysis, and security. 


The plan will also focus on memory and storage

The plan will also focus on memory and storage, investing $750 annually over 10 years. Image used courtesy of SIA and SRC

The report preview points to AI applications as a clear example and says that this only represents a taste of what’s to come. 

As a remedy, the report suggests computing systems with true cognition but also correctly highlights that this isn’t achievable due to Moore’s Law and the fact that semiconductors are reaching their physical limits. Therefore, change must be brought “to address an information and intelligence-based value proposition with semiconductor technologies as the driver” with further federal investments to stimulate research and development. 

The full Decadal Plan is scheduled to be published in December with the SIA and SRC planning to host a virtual workshop that coincides with its release.