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National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) reveals R&D topics for Jump Start Projects

June 13, 2024
By: Jerry Coughter

During a recent webinar presented by the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC), center representatives announced details of its initial round of R&D funding opportunities, as outlined in its vision for 2024 document. The projects to be funded, which NSTC refers to as Jump Start Projects, are (1) AI-based Radio Frequency (RF) Design and (2) Test Vehicles. ​ During the webinar, Jay Lewis, director of the CHIPS for America NSTC Program, noted that “the aim is to deliver impactful results through early investments in projects with a near-term time horizon.” ​He also announced that approximately $100 million will be available to fund the first set of external teams. ​ Further announcements regarding the NSTC facilities model and selection process, as well as the launch of a workforce center of excellence, are expected in the summer of 2024.

As described during the webinar, the first project, Artificial Intelligence Driven Radio Frequency  Integrated Circuit Design Enablement (AIDRFIC), seeks to develop AI-based electronic design automation tools for radio frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) design. NSTC cited a lack of experienced RFIC designers in the United States, which has resulted in limited improvements in RFIC design productivity. This NSTC project is expected to start by the end of 2024. NSTC will host an Informational Webinar on June 21, 2024, and an in-person Proposers Day in the 2nd week of July 2024 for interested parties. Register for the webinar here.Preliminary information and timelines in advance of a Proposers’ Day event on July 11, 2024 will also be discussed at the webinar. Proposals are due by Sept 6, 2024.

NSTC’s second Jump Start Project is called Test Vehicles. This project seeks to address a lack of sophisticated test vehicles (test chip designs, advanced test chip processing, automated testing hardware), which limits technology readiness levels in the U.S. According to NSTC, addressing this gap will reduce the time, cost, and risk of process development and improvement and allow research organizations to focus their R&D resources more efficiently. While final dates are not yet set, an Informational Webinar is planned for August 2024, and an in-person Proposers Day for September 2024. Details for these, when they are posted, will be available here.  Proposals will be due in November, with projects expected to start in February 2025.

During the webinar, Deirdre Hanford, CEO of NSTC operator Natcast, gave an update on the NSTC facilities and capabilities RFI issued in March 2024. While she did not comment on the number of facilities to be built or the anticipated level of spending, she reported that 74 RFI responses were received from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including industry, educational institutions, partnerships and consortia, and government labs. According to Hanford three themes emerged from the ecosystem feedback: (1) a high interest in advanced packaging access to increase U.S. competitiveness; (2) the need for full-flow foundry-like production capabilities and services, in addition to the ability to run short-loop experiments for unit-process development and earlier-stage R&D; and (3) the desire for at least three distinct process lines, including a specialized 300mm CMOS+X flow with end-to-end capability, a wide-bandgap material line, and a 300mm advanced CMOS flow leveraging EUV lithography and next generation device structures. Further announcements on the NSTC facilities model and selection process are expected in the summer of 2024.

Hanford also reported that the Department of Commerce expects to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in workforce development efforts, including the establishment of a NSTC Workforce Center of Excellence. NSTC is working with stakeholder groups to identify critical workforce needs. Recognizing a need to grow interest in the industry among potential workers, they plan a multistep approach, including scaling up proven programs and expanding access to relevant educational programs.  The Workforce Center of Excellence is expected to launch in summer 2024.

NSTC is a US Department of Commerce program funded by the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act. Previously announced CHIPS R&D funding opportunities can be found here.

semiconductors, r&d