DoD Seeking Information for Public-Private Microelectronic Commons

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: The Department of Defense issued a federal register notice requesting information from academia, startups, small businesses, government labs, and domestic semiconductor manufacturers in pursuit of a public-private partnership that will create regional hubs of microelectronics innovation.

This Microelectronics Commons idea, envisioned by an Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering-led cross functional team, aims to:

Create “Lab-to-Fab” testing/prototyping hubs to build a network focused on maturing microelectronics technologies

Provide broad access to these prototyping hubs, potentially through augmented academic facilities (i.e. a local semiconductor company or a Federally Funded Research and Development Center)

Facilitate microelectronics education and training of students at local colleges and universities, and provide a potential pipeline for an engineering workforce to bolster the local semiconductor economy

“Microelectronics are vital to every aspect of our lives from delivering power to our homes to securing our nation’s infrastructure,” said Under Secretary (R&E) Heidi Shyu. “They also support nearly all DoD activities, enabling capabilities such as GPS, radar, and command, control, and communication systems.”

To supplement substantial U.S. investments in disruptive research and development, DoD must establish and facilitate a national network of academic and small business research entities by reducing barriers and enhance existing infrastructure. Many restrictions exist for introducing new materials and processes into tightly controlled high-volume fabrication processes that rely on maintaining high yield to accommodate large facility operation costs.

New models, science, and technology must be leveraged to create a different manufacturing paradigm based on proven process tools in agile fabrication facilities. These enhanced manufacturing capabilities could allow cost-effective ways to capture and incentivize domestic research and development and provide a low-volume production environment for a high mix of technologies as they are incubated and nurtured for DoD and commercial market applications.