The Department of Commerce’s CHIPS Act Program Office has received more than 200 Statements of Interest (SOIs) since February.
The first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was released at the end of February this year. The NOFO detailed some of the incentives for semiconductor and equipment manufacturing facilities laid out in the CHIPS Act.
Over 50% of the statements show interest in the first NOFO, but the rest indicate interest in upcoming funding opportunities for semiconductor suppliers and R&D facilities.
Applicants include leading-edge fabs, legacy chip facilities and packaging facilities. The Department is evaluating applications based on whether they will advance the US economy and protect national security.
The CHIPS Program Office Director, Mike Schmidt, and Chief Investment Officer, Todd Fisher, were recently interviewed by Bloomberg.
During the interview Schmidt mentioned some issues that were repeatedly coming up in SOIs, including what federal state local permits were required, and what the NIPA (National Income and Product Accounts) review process would be.
Schmidt made it clear that, although the US has a share in the global semiconductor R&D industry, it is lagging behind in leading-edge logic and advanced chips. They also both stressed they were aiming for supply chain resilience, rather than a purely financial return.
Some critics have questioned the relevancy of certain areas covered in the CHIPS Act, including the childcare clause. The Act’s first NOFO set childcare requirements that manufacturers would have to fulfil to qualify for funding. Some question whether this is relevant or necessary to the Act, however Fisher and Schmidt said it was.
Schmidt stated that workforce concerns are at the top of many companies priorities lists. He said that adding a childcare clause is an aide to attracting a larger, more diverse workforce down the line. Fisher added that he thought the US workforce system is “not where it needs to be”, and in the last 20 years the domestic semiconductor industry lost a third of its workers while the industry tripled globally.
The two also cited companies such as Samsung, TSMC and Micron who all have successful childcare policies in place.
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