Illustration by Shonagh Rae

How the CHIPS and Science Act Can Deliver on Its Promises

Perspectives from
Yu ZhouSteven C. Currall and Venkatesh NarayanamurtiElise Harrington, Sairaj Dhople, Xiaojia Wang, Jungwon Choi, and Steven KoesterMaryann FeldmanSujai Shivakumar

Figures by
Jacob Feldgoise

Global Competition

Competing With China

The CHIPS and Science Act authorized $52 billion for domestic semiconductor chip manufacturers with the aim of enhancing the global competitiveness of the US chip industry, improving the security of the supply chain, and countering China’s ambitions in the sector. While increasing investment in semiconductor research and development is welcome, whether it can improve US global competitiveness and prevent the rise of China is uncertain.Read More

Although the “threat” of China has been used to justify American governmental spending, when it comes to semiconductors, China has largely been a customer of American and Asian giants rather than a competitor.

Future technological competitiveness will require promoting synergistic alliances among industry, government, and academia—as well as making the boundaries among these institutions increasingly porous.

Linking Science and Technology

An Inflection Point for Technological Leadership?

The CHIPS and Science Act may be a watershed development in restoring America’s global leadership in R&D and high-technology manufacturing, but whether it truly marks an inflection point for American competitiveness remains to be seen. Global technological leadership is likely to be determined by much more than simply an influx of dollars. The act should be used as a fulcrum to usher in a cultural change—within the federal government and beyond—reflecting the recognition that, combined with the search for novelty, technological advances and scientific discoveries are intimately linked. That linkage can simultaneously propel both technological progress and scientific discoveries to greater heights in contributing to the long-term public and private good.Read More

Centering Sustainability

Sustainability for Semiconductors

It’s long been clear that chip manufacturing can cause significant pollution and hazards to human health. And chips are formidable consumers of energy themselves: since 2010, the energy use from semiconductor-based products or devices has doubled every three years as they have proliferated across computing and electrification. Thus the CHIPS and Science Act presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to center sustainability in ongoing R&D and investment and mitigate the myriad environmental impacts of chips before they become even more ubiquitous.Read More

Researching ways to repair and recycle chips and related components can result in designs that avoid dependence on foreign suppliers or scarce resources, increasing the security of domestic supply chains.

Although universities are necessary for technology-based economic development, it has become clear that research and education alone are not sufficient to create thriving innovation zones.

Regional Economic Growth

Place-Based Economic Development

For too long, the conventional policy approach has been for the government to invest in projects and training rather than in places, operating under the assumption that once trained, people will move to places with more jobs. The reality, however, is that many people have personal and social attachments to places, limiting their geographic mobility. Furthermore, well-paying jobs in the former industrial heartland have been depleted both by international trade—the focus of much recent policy—and lack of public and private investment. Incentives to relocate firms, factories, and warehouses back to these regions have not yielded the desired benefits. The result is a landscape where there are few, if any, opportunities for advancement in many parts of the United States, leaving residents unable to realize their potential. To address this, the United States needs a bold strategic effort to create prosperity. Read More

A Long-Term National Commitment

Manufacturing and Workforce

New chip plants can help power a broader resurgence in US manufacturing. Semiconductor fabrication plants, or “fabs,” tend to become the focal points of manufacturing and innovation clusters: concentrations of technology-intensive companies, large numbers of skilled workers, and academic institutions and training centers offering curricula relevant to chip design and production. New fab construction itself also directly and indirectly generates well-paid jobs and contributes to economic activity across a region. Public-private partnerships are key to growing these fab-centric ecosystems.Read More

As the CHIPS Act is implemented, it will be important to ensure that regional networks support broader national efforts to promote US leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics.

We welcome your comments on the ideas presented in this section. Please write us at [email protected] to submit a letter to the editors.