The CHIPS and Science Act created several new initiatives within the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships that the National Science Foundation created early this year. This includes establishing priority technology focus areas and authorizing new programs supporting technology commercialization, regional innovation, and workforce development.
Arch Street is very pleased to announce that we are working with FYI Science Policy News to produce content for their regular bulletins on science and technology policy. FYI is the the editorially independent science policy news service from the American Institute of Physics and is considered the go-to source on science policy information and topical updates. Arch Street’s first bulletin on Regional Innovation Provisions in the CHIPS and Science Act is now live. Special thanks to Mitch Ambrose and Will Thomas of AIP for their encouragement and support.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) CHIPS for America initiative is seeking public input on two programs that aim to restore U.S. global leadership in semiconductor manufacturing. Both were authorized under the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act.
The CHIPS for America initiative includes two main components. First, it provides financial incentives to encourage investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Second, it establishes collaborative networks for research and innovation that will ensure an enduring technological edge. The two Requests for Information (RFIs) cover both aspects of the initiative.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) recently launched the second Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize. The EPIC Prize recognizes the nation’s most innovative incubators in the field of energy. EPIC awards cash prizes to regional incubator teams that submit the most creative and impactful plans, then implement those plans to develop strong clusters, connections, and support for energy startups and entrepreneurs. A total of $4 million is available for multiple awards. For more information about EPIC and how to apply see the program FAQ. Proposals are due by October 25, 2022.
The federal government is making a big push in quantum information science or QIS research across all major research agencies.
Quantum technologies could transform key industries and launch future industries, but fundamental research roadblocks remain with most experts predicting it will take 5-10 years at least before the U.S. produces a functional quantum computer. At the moment, QIS technologies are remain experimental and will need substantial advances in hardware and software to unlock their potential.
New federal QIS research investments were kickstarted by Congress in 2018 with the National Quantum Initiative Act. The legislation established a quantum consortia led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes by the National Science Foundation; National Quantum Information Science Research Centers by the Department of Energy; and greater interagency coordination of federal QIS research and development.
QIS presents major implications for both U.S. national and homeland security. Concerns have been raised about the potential for a quantum computer being able to break public-key cryptography — the bedrock of cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, national security systems and everyday digital devices. President Biden recently issued National Security Memorandum 10 outlining the potential threats and opportunities posed by QIS advancements. The memorandum states: “a quantum computer of sufficient size and sophistication — also known as a cryptanalytically relevant quantum computer (CRQC) — will be capable of breaking much of the public-key cryptography used on digital systems across the United States and around the world,” The memorandum outlines specific actions for agencies to take as the United States begins the multi-year process of migrating vulnerable computer systems to quantum-resistant cryptography, stating: “while the full range of applications of quantum computers is still unknown, it is nevertheless clear that America’s continued technological and scientific leadership will depend, at least in part, on the nation’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage in quantum computing and QIS.”
Recognizing the potential and the threats stemming from QIS, Congress has also increased investments in QIS for national security. Across the Department of Defense, budget requests for quantum-related programs increased 37 percent between fiscal years 2020 and 2022. Recently the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., was named the Quantum Information Science Research Center for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. AFRL also received an additional $8 million to conduct research and development in QIS at the adjacent Innovare Advancement Center which allows for research collaborations with academic and industry partners in an unclassified laboratory setting.
The Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program is a new initiative of the U.S. National Science Foundation. The goal of NSF Engines is to catalyze innovation ecosystems across the United States to advance critical technologies, address societal challenges, nurture diverse talent, and promote economic growth and job creation. With the potential for each Engine to receive up to $160 million for up to 10+ years, the program supports the development of regional coalitions, spanning academia, industry, nonprofits, government, civil society, and communities of practice, to engage in use-inspired research, translation of research results to society, and workforce development. The NSF Engines seeks to harness the Nation’s geography of innovation, unleashing a new era of innovation and competitiveness for the U.S. For more detail see: https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/regional-innovation-engines
The NSF has sponsored several webinars and regional briefings for potential stakeholders and interested proposers. These information sessions are found on the NSF Technology, Innovation & Partnerships (TIP) YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGhBP1C7iCOnQhfxpyk4ZY9-qoqI4dar_
Thirty years ago, Congress sought to advance federal investments in high performance computing HPC and communications. The result was the HPC Act of 1991 which has expanded in scope and evolved over the years into the Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) Program. Under the NITRD program, overall federal IT R&D investment have grown from less than $5 million in 1991 to nearly $7.8 billion requested for FY2022.
The 1991 legislation established a mechanism to coordinate and plan R&D efforts among federal agencies and sectors. This helped extend and expand the federal investments in networking and information technology (NIT) and maintain America’s world leadership in these areas. Through the NITRD process, Federal agencies exchange information; collaborate on research activities such as testbeds, workshops, strategic planning, and cooperative solicitations; and focus their R&D resources on common goals of making new discoveries and/or developing new technology solutions to address our Nation’s most critical priorities. This includes advanced networking technologies (including wireless), artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, health IT, information integrity, networked physical systems, privacy protection, robotics, and software.
What is the current state of science and engineering in the United States? How healthy is the U.S. STEM labor force? What is the level of U.S. investment in R&D across various sectors? How does the U.S. compare internationally in science and technology (S&T)? These are the types of questions addressed by the biennial report produced by the National Science Board — United States Science and Engineering Indicators — through the presentation of key quantitative measures of R&D, STEM education and workforce, and economic competitiveness.
On April 20, 2022 the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will convene a webinar to discuss the 2022 Indicators report, which was released in January. The webinar will feature representatives of the NSB and the National Science Foundation who will discuss the report’s findings in relation to STEM education at all levels; the STEM workforce; U.S. and international research and development performance; U.S. competitiveness in high-technology industries; and invention, knowledge transfer, and innovation. The session will also include comments from Dr. France Córdova, former NSF Director and President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, to discuss the Indicators data within the context of philanthropic contributions to science.
The session is free and open to the public but registration is required. To register click here.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) released the results of a request for information (RFI) seeking data on the state of the semiconductor supply chain.
The DoC confirmed that there is a significant, persistent mismatch in supply and demand for chips, and survey respondents did not see the problem going away in the next six months. Median demand for the chips highlighted by the buyers who responded to the RFI was as much as 17% higher in 2021 than in 2019, and buyers aren’t seeing commensurate increases in the supply they receive.
The main bottleneck identified is the need for additional manufacturing or fab capacity. In addition, companies identified material and assembly, test, and packaging capacity as bottlenecks.
The RFI received more than 150 responses, including from nearly every major semiconductor producer and from companies in multiple consuming industries.
Other findings include:
- The median inventory of semiconductor products highlighted by buyers has fallen from 40 days in 2019 to less than 5 days in 2021 (see Figure 2). These inventories are even smaller in key industries.
- The RFI allowed us to pinpoint specific nodes where the supply and demand mismatch is most acute, and we will target our efforts moving forward on collaborating with industry to resolve bottlenecks in these nodes.
- The primary bottleneck across the board appears to be wafer production capacity, which requires a longer-term solution.
DoC urged passage of semiconductor legislation pending in Congress — the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) including $52 billion in funding to support domestic chip manufacturing. That legislation remains stalled due to disagreements between the House and the Senate as well as a slowdown in annual appropriations across all agencies.
U.S. industrial and attendant technology policy has a long and tortured existence often rising and falling in a decadal threat cycle: communism in the 50’s/60’s, oil shocks in the 1970’s, and the rise of Japan in the 1980’s. For many years starting in the 1990’s, the term “industrial policy” was considered verboten, off-limits in policy circles especially among free-market Republicans who preferred to let market forces drive technology investments. This led to a whip-saw effect, U.S. technology initiatives would flourish in times of threat, then languish and die as the U.S. defaulted to market forces alone. Unfortunately, while market forces are highly efficient and effective in picking winners and losers, this process has left the U.S. vulnerable, as the market for critical technologies (and their attendant supply chains) globalized.
With these shifts becoming apparent in the past few years, Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is out today with a new white paper on Strategic Industrial Policy. Because of an increasing reliance on sophisticated globally-sourced dual-use technologies such as semiconductors, Atkinson argues that the United States should adopt what he terms a Strategic-Industrial Policy. In the white paper, Atkinson attempts to refute the standard arguments against industrial policy — picking winners and losers, focus on high profile failures, politicization risks — while arguing that the threat from China to both U.S. economic and national security demands a new approach to U.S. industrial policy.