People in a hallway looking through a window into another room
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, left, listens as Hadis Morkoç, Ph.D., the Founders Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics at VCU's College of Engineering and a highly-cited researcher in the study of semiconductors, describes the work underway at the C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center at VCU's College of Engineering. (Dan Wagner, VCU College of Engineering)

At VCU, Sen. Warner says CHIPS Act will bring semiconductor research, cutting-edge manufacturing back to US, Virginia

Mark Warner toured VCU College of Engineering’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center and spoke with officials about the role Virginia play in revitalizing the U.S.'s standing as a leader in the semiconductor industry.

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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner visited Virginia Commonwealth University on Thursday to highlight the recent bipartisan passage of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which seeks to incentivize domestic manufacturing of semiconductors and improve U.S. technological competitiveness.

“One of the most exciting opportunities for Virginia, and for our country, is what we develop as we try to bring back the semiconductor industry to the United States,” said Warner, who was speaking at the VCU College of Engineering alongside university, state and local officials. “… This is the chance for Virginia, all along the supply chain, to play (a role), and it’s going to require all of our great universities. No single university in Virginia can do this alone. It’s going to have to take a collaboration.”

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., shared how VCU and other Virginia universities are driving innovative research and preparing students and graduates for the “critical pathway for opportunity” that the field of advanced manufacturing for materials like semiconductors — and other similar fields with a strong need for skilled professionals — provides. VCU and universities across Virginia, he said, are eager to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in careers built around the CHIPS Act’s expansion of advanced manufacturing and research and development opportunities.

“We are absolutely dedicated to being sure that we are focused on these professions — professions that give students, ultimately graduates, the kind of access that they need,” Rao said. “VCU and all of the Virginia universities are prepared and positioned to make this a success for this country, and I would love for Virginia to be the pilot to model, for the rest of the country, what success is going to look like.”

Warner, who co-sponsored the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, provided an overview of the CHIPS Act and said it creates new opportunities for semiconductor manufacturing in Virginia.

One man standing in between four people sitting at a table
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., left, greets U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, right, and the local, regional, industry and university leaders who gathered at VCU's College of Engineering Thursday to discuss the recently-passed CHIPS and Science Act, which aims to expand the manufacturing and research and development sectors for semiconductor production in the U.S. (Dan Wagner, VCU College of Engineering)

“We’ve seen over the last 30 years where America dominated this industry to now, where we only make about 12% (of semiconductor chips). And America, particularly on the manufacturing side, we don’t make any of the cutting-edge chips. Many of the chips that were done in this lab on an experimental basis, at the production level, are actually made in Taiwan,” said Warner, after touring the C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center at VCU’s College of Engineering. “This legislation will keep bringing the research and the cutting-edge manufacturing back to America, and my hope is that Virginia will be successful in attracting at least one of these facilities.”

Warner, who is co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, led a roundtable discussion on how to best collaborate to take advantage of opportunities provided by the legislation.

Rob Beard, senior vice president and general counsel of semiconductor company Micron Technology, spoke about how semiconductor companies make decisions about investment and site selection. Jason El Koubi, president of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, gave a presentation on potential semiconductor manufacturing sites in Virginia.

While at VCU, Warner toured the C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center at the College of Engineering. The shared research center provides principal investigators, students and industrial researchers training, access and technical support for their project tasks. It includes more than 8,000 square feet of cleanroom space for a particle-free environment and a suite of micro- and nano-fabrication state-of-the-art tools.

The CHIPS Act aims to strengthen manufacturing, supply chains and national security and invest in research and development, science and technology and the workforce of industries such as clean energy, nanotechnology, quantum computing and artificial intelligence.