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USC Awarded $26.9 Million to Spur Development of Domestic Microelectronics

USC Awarded $26.9 Million to Spur Development of Domestic Microelectronics

A student walks to class at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles on March 11, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

9/20/2023

Updated: 9/20/2023

LOS ANGELES—The University of Southern California has received $26.9 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish technologies aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on foreign microelectronics and safeguarding the nation from supply chain risks, it was announced on Sept. 20.
The “innovation hub” at the university will focus on microelectronic development in areas such as electromagnetic warfare, secure computing “at the tactical edge” and the internet of things, artificial intelligence hardware, 5G and 6G wireless and quantum technology, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said during a briefing on Wednesday.
The university will develop one of eight Microelectronic Commons regional innovation hubs under the CHIPS Act—which is designed to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States—that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein congratulated the university for receiving the award.
“These innovation hubs will develop cutting-edge technologies in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, hardware for national defense, and more,” she said in a statement. “These hubs will create good-paying jobs and be a boon for the tech industry in both Northern and Southern California.”
Stanford University and University of California–Berkeley also received Microelectronic Commons awards from the Department of Defense.
“While America is a world leader in the innovative research and design of microelectronics, we’ve lagged in the ability to prototype, manufacture, and produce them at scale,” Ms. Hicks said.
The United States is responsible for only about 12 percent of microelectronics production globally, with most production now in Asia, according to the Department of Defense. The U.S. also lacks much of the capacity to confirm the viability and marketability of new microelectronics technologies in ways that might convince American industry to invest in them, the department said.
The Department of Defense said that with $2 billion in funding for fiscal years 2023-27, the Microelectronics Commons program aims to leverage the hubs to accelerate domestic hardware prototyping and manufacture of semiconductor technologies. This will help mitigate supply chain risks and ultimately expedite access to the most cutting-edge microchips for American troops, the department said.
“Consistent with our warfighter-centric approach to innovation, these hubs will tackle many technical challenges relevant to [the Department of Defense’s] missions, to get the most cutting-edge microchips into systems our troops use every day: ships, planes, tanks, long-range munitions, communications gear, sensors and much more,” Ms. Hicks said.
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