2021 NSF Workshop on
Semiconductor industry has played a prominent role in the U.S. and global economy for more than 50 years and has impacted human experience in irreplaceable manner. While the most common practice is to just think about computers when the word Semiconductor Industry is mentioned, its societal impact is incredibly broad. Indeed transportation, healthcare, internet, energy, AI, sustainable environment etc. are all fueled by the engine that is called the semiconductor industry. As cloud and 5G/6G are poised to impart huge impact at the global scale, the importance of semiconductor industry is only growing to grow in the coming years. The question about national defense is also invariably connected to U.S. having secured access to the most advanced semiconductor technology.
Indeed, the semiconductor industry was created in the U.S. and over the last many decades, the U.S. has enjoyed unfettered leadership in this space. However, its leadership in manufacturing chips has consistently eroded and is now facing steep competition from around the world. With the erosion of manufacturing capability, facilities for advanced research on semiconductor technology have also seen substantial lack of investment. In fact, currently there are no US facilities where exploratory research can be performed on advanced CMOS devices at the relevant dimension and at the relevant scale. This means that many U.S. innovations are tested at off-shore facilities, leading to the loss of intellectual property. In some cases, U.S. researchers start from pre-fabricated wafers from foreign Foundries and integrate their own technology on top. While this method may be effective in a small number of cases, it is extremely limiting for most because it inherently precludes frontier research on advanced CMOS. It is to be noted that the roughly 452 billion dollars of estimated revenue of the semiconductor industry in 2021 is predominantly derived from technology based on advanced CMOS. Put together the challenges are so daunting, that it discourages U.S. students to pursue a career in the semiconductor industry. Losing access to the smartest students will make it impossible for the U.S. to compete in this space in the future.
To revitalize the U.S. Semiconductor Industry it is imperative to develop infrastructure where new ideas for future computing hardware can be explored, fabricated and tested in a relevant scale. This will need these facilities to be able to fabricate both advanced CMOS and new technologies (hitherto referred as the ‘X’) and integrate them in a seamless manner. Indeed, similar facilities are being developed in other countries. This Workshop on CMOS+X: Cointegration of CMOS with Emerging Technologies (X) will develop an outline for a network of U.S. facilities by listening to domain experts. The workshop report will aim to provide recommendations to NSF for both facilities and programs that can make such an effort successful and thus serve a very critical national need in the most efficient manner.