AMD's Lisa Su cites 'shifts in thinking' about US semiconductor manufacturing

While the US semiconductor industry has long sought greater federal support, the AMD CEO said there's new awareness now of the significance of the industry and creating secure supply chains.

As the US semiconductor industry seeks out more support from the federal government, some recent "shifts in thinking" could help the industry reach long-sought goals, AMD CEO Lisa Su said Tuesday. The remarks followed news that the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) is seeking around $37 billion in federal funding for various efforts to support the industry, particularly for domestic manufacturing. 

"We have spent time on this topic of US domestic manufacturing," Su said, speaking as a member of the SIA. "I think it's part of a broader conversation... really around US leadership in technology."

"The US is a leader in technology, in high-performance computing, and our goal is to continue that particular leadership," Su said in a webchat hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Consumer Technology Association. "With that comes a need for secure supply chains." 

In addition to supporting domestic manufacturing, she said the US should continue to support "leading-edge R&D" as well as the training of new researchers. "If you think about what's gotten us to where we are," she said, "we have these universities that are the training ground for the next generation of technology leaders."

The SIA, according to the Wall Street Journal, has drafted a proposal for $5 billion in funding for a new semiconductor factory jointly operated by the public and private sector, as well as $15 billion in state block grants for manufacturing facilities. The group is also reportedly seeking $17 billion for federal research, another $10 billion for fundamental and applied research, and $5 billion for a new technology center. 

"There's no question that the semiconductor industry has been thinking about these issues for a long time," Su said. Still, she continued, "I think it's become more clear to all of us that leadership in semiconductors are important. I do also think there is a new view of supply chains that people are understanding. It's been on the docket for quite some time, but I do think there are some shifts in thinking."

The US semiconductor industry holds nearly half of the global market share, according to the SIA, a trade group that represents 95 percent of the industry in the US. The SIA says that nearly half of US manufacturers' production is done in the United States. 

At the same time, other countries are investing in and expanding their capacity for chip production. 

"The Chinese government, for example, has announced efforts to invest well over $100 billion over the next decade to catch up to the United States in semiconductor technology and the semiconductor-enabled technologies of the future, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing,"  SIA CEO John Neuffer wrote in a recent op-ed. "The country that leads in semiconductors will win in these technologies of the future, reaping huge social, economic and national security benefits."

The COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the US tech sector's dependence on global supply chains, prompting conversations about manufacturing between the US government and major chipmakers like Intel

Last month, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) recently announced plans to build a $12 billion manufacturing facility in Arizona with the support of the federal government. 

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