USC has received $26.9 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish technologies aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on foreign microelectronics and safeguarding the nation from supply chain risks, it was announced Wednesday.
The “innovation hub” at USC will focus on microelectronic development in areas such as electromagnetic warfare, secure computing “at the tactical edge” and the internet of things, artificial intelligence hardware, 5G and 6G wireless and quantum technology, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said during a briefing Wednesday.
USC will develop one of eight Microelectronic Commons regional innovation hubs under the CHIPS Act — which is designed to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States — that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein congratulated USC for receiving the award.
“These innovation hubs will develop cutting-edge technologies in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, hardware for national defense and more,” she said in a statement. “These hubs will create good-paying jobs and be a boon for the tech industry in both Northern and Southern California.”
Stanford University and UC Berkeley also received Microelectronic Commons awards from the DoD.
“While America is a world leader in the innovative research and design of microelectronics, we’ve lagged in the ability to prototype, manufacture and produce them at scale,” Hicks said.
The United States is responsible for only about 12% of microelectronics production globally, with most production now in Asia, according to the DoD. The U.S. also lacks much of the capacity to confirm the viability and marketability of new microelectronics technologies in ways that might convince American industry to invest in them, the department said.
The DoD said that with $2 billion in funding for fiscal years 2023-27, the Microelectronics Commons program aims to leverage the hubs to accelerate domestic hardware prototyping and manufacture of semiconductor technologies. This will help mitigate supply chain risks and ultimately expedite access to the most cutting-edge microchips for American troops, the department said.
“Consistent with our warfighter-centric approach to innovation, these hubs will tackle many technical challenges relevant to DoD’s missions, to get the most cutting-edge microchips into systems our troops use every day: ships, planes, tanks, long-range munitions, communications gear, sensors and much more,” Hicks said.