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US Outlines its Plans for Chips Awards

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said she expects to make about a dozen semiconductor chips funding awards within the next year, including multibillion-dollar announcements that could drastically reshape US chip production.

She announced the first award on Monday — US$35 million to a BAE Systems Inc facility in Hampshire to produce chips for fighter planes from the “Chips for America” semiconductor manufacturing and research subsidy program approved by the US Congress in August last year.

“Next year we’ll get into some of the bigger ones with leading-edge fabs,” Raimondo told reporters. “A year from now I think we will have made 10 or 12 similar announcements, some of them multibillion dollar announcements.”

In an interview, Raimondo said that the number of awards could go higher than 12. She said she wants the percentage of semiconductors produced in the US to rise from about 12 percent to closer to 20 percent — although that is still down from 40 percent in 1990 — and to have at least two “leading-edge” US manufacturing clusters.

In addition, she wants the US to have cutting-edge memory and packaging production, and to “meet the military’s needs for current and mature” chips. Companies such as Intel Corp, Micron Technology Inc, GlobalFoundries Inc are among those seeking significant funding from the chip program.

Raimondo said the program has received more than 550 statements of interest and nearly 150 pre-applications, full applications and concept plans. The US Congress has allocated US$39 billion for manufacturing incentives to encourage companies to build and expand facilities, and awards can be a mix of grants, government loans or loan guarantees.

However, Raimondo said that US efforts to build out the domestic semiconductor industry could be delayed by years if companies are required to go through standard environmental reviews, signaling climate regulations might clash with national security goals.

Projects under construction by Micron, Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) — who have together pledged up to US$195 billion in US investment — are among those that could be affected by lengthy reviews that Raimondo and a bipartisan group of lawmakers had tried to avoid.

Meanwhile, Raimondo said Nvidia Corp “can, will and should sell AI [artificial intelligence] chips to China because most AI chips will be for commercial applications.”

“What we cannot allow them to ship is the most sophisticated, highest-processing power AI chips, which would enable China to train their frontier models,” she said.

Raimondo said she spoke a week ago to Nvidia chief executive officer Jensen Huang (黃仁勳) and he was “crystal clear. We don’t want to break the rules. Tell us the rules, we’ll work with you.”

Raimondo said the department was working with Nvidia.

“They want to do the right thing. Obviously, they want to sell as many chips as possible,” she said.

Source: Taipei Times